Seyfarth Synopsis: California Legislators sent Governor Jerry Brown 1,217 bills to consider in his final bill-signing period as Governor—more than any California governor has seen since 2004. The final tally: 1016 signed, 201 vetoed. Below is our full, final roundup of new laws that employers must comply with, bills that fell to the Governor’s veto pen, and bills that never made it to the Governor’s desk. Even though the Governor’s veto saved California employers from some truly awful legislation (such as AB 3080’s attempted ban on employment arbitration agreements), 2019 may well bring a new Legislature just as hostile to business, and a new Governor not known for the practical caution that sometimes has characterized Governor Brown. We expect that the vetoed bills will re-emerge, and may receive a more favorable gubernatorial consideration.

Sign up for our webinar on October 10, 2018 for a discussion of these results and implications for employers.

APPROVED

Sexual Harassment Bills

Human Trafficking Awareness. SB 970 requires hotel and motel employers (excluding bed and breakfast inns), to provide—by January 1, 2020, and once every two years thereafter—at least 20 minutes of interactive human trafficking awareness training to employees likely to interact with human trafficking victims. The Department of Fair Employment and Housing can seek an order requiring an employer comply with these requirements. Adds section 12950.3 to the Government Code.

Sexual Harassment Omnibus Bill. SB 1300 adds a section to the Government Code that declares the purpose of harassment laws is to provide all Californians with equal opportunity to succeed in the workplace. To that end, the bill expressly affirms or rejects specified judicial decisions in:

  • Harris v. Forklift Systems: approving the standard in Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s concurrence that in a workplace harassment suit “the plaintiff need not prove that his or her tangible productivity has declined as a result of the harassment. It suffices to prove that a reasonable person subjected to the discriminatory conduct would find, as the plaintiff did, that the harassment so altered working conditions as to make it more difficult to do the job.”
  • Brooks v. City of San Mateo: prohibiting reliance on Judge Alex Kozinksi’s Ninth Circuit opinion to determine what conduct is sufficiently severe or pervasive to constitute actionable harassment under FEHA.
  • Reid v. Google, Inc.: affirming the California Supreme Court’s rejection of the “stray remarks doctrine,” because the “existence of a hostile work environment depends on the totality of the circumstances and a discriminatory remark, even if made not directly in the context of an employment decision or uttered by a nondecisionmaker, may be relevant, circumstantial evidence of discrimination.”
  • Kelley v. Conco Companies: disapproving use of this case to support different standards for hostile work environment harassment depending on the type of workplace.
  • Nazir v. United Airlines, Inc: affirming this case’s observation that “hostile working environment cases involve issues ‘not determinable on paper.’ ”

SB 1300 also:

  • Expands an employer’s potential FEHA liability for acts of nonemployees to all forms of unlawful harassment (removing the “sexual” limitation).
  • Prohibits employers from requiring an employee to sign (as a condition of employment, raise, or bonus): (1) a release of FEHA claims or rights or (2) a document prohibiting disclosure of information about unlawful acts in the workplace, including nondisparagement agreements. This provision does not apply to negotiated settlement agreements to resolve FEHA claims filed in court, before administrative agencies, alternative dispute resolution, or though the employer’s internal complaint process.
  • Prohibits a prevailing defendant from being awarded attorney’s fees and costs unless the court finds the action was frivolous, unreasonable, or groundless when brought or that the plaintiff continued to litigate after it clearly became so.
  • Authorizes (but does not require) employers to provide bystander intervention training to its employees.

SB 1300 would have—contingent upon SB 1038 also passing—subjected employees alleged to have engaged in harassment to personal liability for retaliation, discrimination, and other adverse employment actions taken against any person who has opposed practices forbidden by FEHA or participated in a FEHA action. As SB 1038, discussed below, failed to make it out of the Legislature, this proposed amendment in SB 1300 does not become operative.

SB 1300 amends Government Code sections 12940, 12965 and adds Government Code sections 12923, 12950.2, 12964.5.

Sex Harassment Settlement Agreement Confidentiality Restrictions. For settlement agreements entered into on or after January 1, 2019, SB 820 will prohibit and make void any provision that prevents the disclosure of information related to civil or administrative complaints of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and workplace harassment or discrimination based on sex. SB 820 expressly authorizes provisions that (1) preclude the disclosure of the amount paid in settlement and (2) protect the claimant’s identity and any fact that could reveal the identity, so long as the claimant has requested anonymity and the opposing party is not a government agency or public official. SB 820 suggests that a violation of its provisions would give rise to a cause of action for civil damages. Adds section 1001 to the Code of Civil Procedure.

Banning Waivers of Rights to Testify. As to any contract or settlement agreement entered into on or after January 1, 2019, SB 3109 makes void and unenforceable any provision that waives a party’s right to testify in a legal proceeding (if required or requested by court order, subpoena or administrative or legislative request) regarding criminal conduct or sexual harassment on the part of the other contracting party, or the other party’s agents or employees.  Adds section 1670.11 to the Civil Code.

Strengthening Prohibitions Against Harassment With Respect to Professional Relationships. SB 224 gives additional examples of professional relationships where liability for claims of sexual harassment may arise and authorizes the DFEH to investigate those circumstances. Amends section 51.9 of the Civil Code and section 12930 and 12948 of the Government Code.

Requiring Sexual Harassment Education by Talent Agencies. AB 2338 requires talent agencies to provide adult artists, parents or legal guardians of minors aged 14-17, and age-eligible minors, within 90 days of retention, educational materials on sexual harassment prevention, retaliation, and reporting resources. For adult model artists only, the talent agency will be required to provide materials on nutrition and eating disorders. Talent agencies will also have to retain, for three years, records showing that those educational materials were provided. Adds Article 4 (commencing with Section 1700.50) to Chapter 4 of Part 6 of Division 2 of the Labor Code.

Expanding Scope of Required Sexual Harassment Training. SB 1343 requires an employer of five or more employees—including seasonal and temporary employees—to provide certain sexual harassment training by January 1, 2020. Within six months of their assuming their position (and once every two years thereafter), all supervisors must receive at least two hours of training, and all nonsupervisory employees must receive at least one hour. SB 1343 also requires the DFEH to make available a one-hour and a two-hour online training course employers may use and to make the training videos, existing informational posters, fact sheets, and online training courses available in multiple languages. Amends sections 12950 and 12950.1 of the Government Code.

Requiring Sexual Harassment Education for In-Home Support Services. AB 3082 requires the Department of Social Services to develop or identify—and provide a copy and description to the Legislature by September 30, 2019—(1) educational materials addressing sexual harassment of in-home supportive services (IHSS) providers and recipients, and (2) a method to collect data on the prevalence of sexual harassment in the IHSS program. Adds section 12318 to the Welfare & Institutions Code.

Non-Harassment Bills

Lactation Location. AB 1976 requires employers to make reasonable efforts to provide a room or location (that is not a bathroom, deleting “toilet stall” and inserting “bathroom”) for lactation. The also bill authorizes a temporary lactation location if certain conditions are met and provides a narrow undue hardship exemption. The Governor vetoed the similar, more onerous, SB 937, discussed below. Amends section 1031 of the Labor Code.

Pay Statement: Right to Receive. Stating it is declaratory of existing law, SB 1252 provides employees the right “to receive” a copy of—not just inspect or copy—their pay statements. Amends section 226 of the Labor Code.

Rest Breaks in Petroleum Facilities. AB 2605 exempts from rest-period requirements certain workers who hold “safety-sensitive positions,” defined as a position whose duties reasonably include responding to emergencies in the facility and carry communication devices. The exemption applies only to workers covered by a collective bargaining agreement and subject to Industrial Wage Commission Wage Order No. 1. But employers must pay exempted workers one hour of pay at the regular rate if the rest period is interrupted to respond to an emergency. Because AB 2605 is an urgency statute, these provisions took effect immediately when approved by the Governor on September 20, 2018 and will sunset on January 1, 2021. The author of this bill sought to carve out an exemption for these positions in light of the recent Augustus v. ABM Security Services, Inc. case. Adds section 226.75 to the Labor Code.

Port Drayage Motor Carries. SB 1402 requires the DLSE to post a list on its website of port drayage motor carriers with any unsatisfied judgment or assessment or any “order, decision, or award” finding illegal conduct as to various wage/hour issues, specifically including independent contractor misclassification and derivative claims. This bill also extends joint and several liability to the customers of these drayage motor carriers for their future wage violations of the same nature. Adds section 2810.4 to the Labor Code.

Contractor Liability. Passed as an urgency statute to make clarifying changes to last year’s AB 1701—which created joint liability for construction contractors and subcontractors—AB 1565 immediately repeals the express provision that relieved direct contractors for liability for anything other than unpaid wages and fringe or other benefit payments or contributions including interest owed. For contracts entered into on or after January 1, 2019,  the direct contractor must specify what documents and information the subcontractor must provide in order to withhold a disputed payment. Amends section 218.7 of the Labor Code.

Criminal History. SB 1412 requires employers to consider only a “particular conviction” (“for specific criminal conduct or a category of criminal offenses prescribed by any federal law, federal regulation, or state law that contains requirements, exclusions, or both, expressly based on that specific criminal conduct or category of criminal offenses”) relevant to the job when screening applicants using a criminal background check. Amends section 432.7 of the Labor Code.

Women on Boards. SB 826 requires California-based publicly held corporations to have on their board of directors at least one female—defined as people who self-identify as women, regardless of their designated sex at birth. The deadline for compliance is December 31, 2019. A corporation may need to increase its authorized number of directors to comply with this requirement. The bill imposes minimum seat requirements that must be filled by women, proportional to the total number of seats, by December 31, 2021. The Secretary of State must publish a report by July 1, 2019 of the number of corporations whose principal executive offices are in California and have at least one female director, and an annual report beginning March 1, 2020, detailing the number of corporations that (1) complied with requirements in 2019, (2) moved their headquarters in or out of California, and (3) were subject to these provisions during 2019, but no longer publicly traded.

For each director’s seat not held by a female during at least a portion of the calendar year—when by law it should have been—the corporation will be subject to a $100,000 fine for the first violation and a $300,000 fine for further violations. Corporations that fail to timely file board member information with the Secretary of State will also be subject to a $100,000 fine. Adds sections 301.3 and 2115.5 to the Corporations Code.

Mediation Confidentiality. SB 954 requires attorneys, except in class actions, to provide their mediating clients with a written disclosure containing the confidentiality restrictions provided in Section 1119 of the Evidence Code and obtain the client’s written acknowledgment that the client has read and understands the confidentiality restrictions. This duty arises as soon as reasonably possible before the client agrees to participate in mediation or a mediation consultation. The bill is of little consequence as an attorney’s failure to comply is not a basis to set aside an agreement prepared in or pursuant to a mediation. Amends Evidence Code section 1122 and adds Evidence Code section 1129.

Class Action Settlements. Among many other changes not directly relevant to this blog, AB 3250 revises amendments to Code of Civil Procedure section 384, which took effect immediately upon the Governor’s signing SB 847 on June 27, 2018 (SB 847 also added relevant Code of Civil Procedure sections 382.4 and 384.5). By virtue of SB 847, Section 384 requires a court, before the entry of a judgment (including consent judgment, decree, settlement agreement approved by the court) in a class action, to determine the total amount that will be payable to all class members, and set a date when the parties are to report to the court the total amount that was actually paid to the class. After the report is received, the court must amend the judgment to direct the defendant to pay the sum of the unpaid residue, plus interest on that sum at the legal rate of interest from the date of entry of the initial judgment (AB 3250 deletes this italicized language and replaces it with “that has accrued thereon”), to nonprofit organizations or foundations to support projects that will benefit the class or similarly situated persons, or that promote the law consistent with the underlying cause of action, or to child advocacy programs, or to nonprofit organizations providing civil legal services to the indigent. An attorney for a party to a class action must notify the court if the attorney has a connection to a proposed nonparty recipient of class action settlement funds that could reasonably create the appearance of impropriety. The court must transmit a copy of the judgment to the Judicial Council, identifying nonparty recipients of class action settlement funds. Amends Business and Professions Code section 6402.2, Civil Code sections 51.7, 52.1, and 54.8, Code of Civil Procedure sections 384, 1013b, 1276, 1277, and 1277.5, Health & Safety Code section 103430, and Insurance Code section 10861.03. Repeals Code of Civil Procedure section 630.30.

VETOED

Banning Contractual Limits on Disclosure and Arbitration Agreements. AB 3080 would have prohibited businesses from requiring, as a condition of employment, employment benefit, or contract (1) that a job applicant or employee waive any right, forum, or procedure (e.g., arbitration) for a violation of FEHA or the Labor Code, and (2) that a job applicant, employee, or independent contractor not disclose instances of sexual harassment suffered, witnessed, or discovered in the work place or in performance of the contract, opposing unlawful practices, or participating in harassment and discrimination related investigations or proceedings. Biting their fingernails into the night on the Governor’s signing deadline, to employers’ relief, Governor Brown vetoed the bill. The Governor stated he was compelled to veto this bill because it “plainly violates federal law.” He remained consistent with his veto of a similar bill in 2015, in which he referred to recent court decisions that invalidated state policies that impeded arbitration and stated his desire to watch future US Supreme Court decisions on the topic before “endorsing a broad ban on mandatory arbitration agreements.” He stated that the “direction from the Supreme Court since my earlier veto has been clear—states must follow the Federal Arbitration Act and the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Act,” citing DIRECTV, Inc. v. Imburgia; and Kindred Nursing Centers Ltd. Partnership v. Clark to reject this bill’s premise “that the Act governs only the enforcement and not the initial formation of arbitration agreements.”

Expanding Record Retention. AB 1867 would have required employers with 50 or more employees to maintain records of complaints alleging sexual harassment for at least five years after the last date of employment of the complainant or alleged harasser, whichever is later. In his veto message, the Governor sagely noted this bill could lead to the retention of records for decades and could require complaints alleging sexual harassment to be maintained for the same amount of time regardless of the result of the investigative process. For those reasons, and because existing law requires personnel records, including records of complaints, be maintained “for suitable periods of time,” the Governor found the time expansion of this bill unwarranted.

Expanding Administrative Charge Filing Deadlines. AB 1870 would have extended a complainant’s time to file an administrative charge with the DFEH from one year to three years after the alleged incident for all types of FEHA-prohibited conduct, including sexual harassment. In vetoing this bill, Governor Brown found the current filing deadline, in place since 1963, “not only encourages prompt resolution while memories and evidence are fresh, but also ensures that unwelcome behavior is promptly reported and halted.”

Extending Liability for Employers and for Businesses Using Labor Contractors. AB 3081 would have amended the FEHA and Labor Code to (1) add status as a sexual harassment victim to existing prohibitions on discrimination against employees who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, (2) create a rebuttable presumption of unlawful retaliation if an employer—within 30 days of notice of the victim’s status—discharges or threatens to discharge, demotes, suspends, or otherwise discriminates against a victim employee, (3) make a business jointly liable for harassment of workers supplied by the business’s labor contractor (existing law similarly extends liability for the contractor’s failure to pay wages and obtain valid workers’ compensation coverage), (4) prohibit businesses from shifting to their labor contractors duties or liabilities under the Labor Code workers’ compensation insurance provisions. Governor Brown rejected the bill on the basis that most of its provisions are unnecessary as already contained in current law, or, if new, are confusing.

Immigration Documents. AB 2732 would have subjected to penalties employers that destroy or withhold passports or other immigration documents, and required all employers to provide a “Worker’s Bill of Rights” (to be developed by the DIR) to all employees. AB 2732 also would have made various changes to the Property Service Worker Protection Act, contingent upon this bill’s and AB 2079’s passing. In a lesson to narrowly tailor bills, Governor Brown found the “provision of this bill that prohibits employers from withholding immigration documents from workers is very appropriate,” but still struck down this entire bill due to its “burdensome and unwarranted” mandate that all employers, even those having nothing to do with labor trafficking, provide the “Worker’s Bill of Rights’ to every employee in California. “This goes too far.”

Lactation Accommodations. SB 937 would have required employers to (1) provide a lactation room with prescribed features and access to a sink and refrigerator (or another cooling device suitable for storing milk) in close proximity to the employee’s workspace, (2) develop and distribute to employees a lactation accommodation policy, and (3) maintain accommodation request records for three years and allow the employee and Labor Commissioner access to the records. SB 937 would have also deemed the denial of time or space for lactation a failure to provide a rest period under Labor Code section 226.7, and required the DLSE to create a model lactation policy and a model lactation accommodation request form. Having signed AB 1976 to further “the state’s ongoing effort to support working mothers and their families,” Governor Brown vetoed this bill as not necessary.

Property Service Worker Protection Act Amendments. Governor Brown vetoed two bills (AB 2732, discussed above, and AB 2079) to amend the Property Service Worker Protection Act, which went into effect July 1, 2018 (AB 1978), and imposes requirements to combat wage theft and sexual harassment for the janitorial industry. In his veto message, the Governor urged AB 2079’s authors and sponsors to allow the Act—“the first of its kind in the country”—to be fully implemented before proposing significant changes. AB 2079 would have required (1) all employers applying for new or renewed registration to demonstrate completion of sexual harassment violence prevention requirements and provide an attestation to the Labor Commissioner, (2) the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) to convene an advisory committee to develop requirements for, and maintain a list of, qualified organizations and peer-trainers for employers to use in providing training, and (3) employers, upon request, to provide requesting employees a copy of all training materials. AB 2079 would have also prohibited the Labor Commissioner from approving a janitorial service employer’s request for registration or for renewal if the employer had not fully satisfied a final judgment to a current or former employee for a violation of the FEHA.

Janitorial Workers Employment Classification. AB 2496 would have established a rebuttable presumption that janitorial workers who perform services for property service employers are employees, not independent contractors. Governor Brown vetoed the bill as premature, pending Legislature review of the California Supreme Court decision in in Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court, which recently established a new test to determine whether a worker is properly classified as an employee or independent contractor.

Veterans and Military Personnel. Governor Brown vetoed SB 1427, which would have added veterans and military personnel as a protected class under the FEHA, because the bill’s other, non-employment-related provisions went “too far.”

Construction Industry Harassment and Discrimination. SB 1223 would have required the DIR to convene an advisory committee to recommend minimum standards for a harassment and discrimination prevention policy and training program specific to the construction industry, and to report to the Legislature specific implementation recommendations. Governor Brown vetoed this bill as better placed with the DFEH—responsible for enforcing the FEHA and its harassment and discrimination prevention and training requirements—not the Labor Commissioner.

FAILED TO PASS BOTH HOUSES OF THE LEGISLATURE

Personal Liability for Retaliation. SB 1038 proposed the same amendment to FEHA as SB 1300 to impose personally liability upon an employee for retaliating against a person who has filed a complaint against the employee, testified against the employee, assisted in any proceeding, or opposed any prohibited practice. As discussed, above, since SB 1038 failed, so did the same proposed amendment in SB 1300.

Hotel Panic Button. AB 1761 would have required hotel employers to provide employees with a “panic button” to call for help in case of an emergency, post a notice of these provisions in each guestroom, provided paid time off or a reasonable accommodation to an employee who is the victim of an assault, required an employer—upon the employee’s request—to contact police, prohibited employers from taking action against any employee who exercises the protections, and imposed penalties for violations of the proposed provisions.

Employers Pay Data. SB 1284 would have required private employers with 100 or more employees and required to file an EEO-1 report to submit a pay data report to the DFEH containing specified information. This bill would have also authorized fines to be imposed on employers who fail to report, authorized the DFEH to seek an order requiring the employer to comply, and require the DFEH to maintain the records for 10 years, though no individually identifiable information could be made public.

FAILED TO PASS THE HOUSE OF ORIGIN

Victims of Sexual Harassment. AB 2366 would have extended existing law that protects employees who take time off work due to being victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking, to include victims of sexual harassment. This bill would have also extended job-protected leave to family members of such victims.

DLSE Time to File Extension. AB 2946 would have extended the time to file a complaint with the DLSE from six months to three years from the date of the violation and amended California’s whistleblower provision to authorize a court to award reasonable attorney’s fees to a prevailing plaintiff.

Familial Status. AB 1938 would have limited employer inquiries about familial status during the hiring or promotional process and made it unlawful to make any non-job related inquiry about an individual’s real or perceived responsibility to care for family members.

Pay Statements. AB 2223 would have provided employers the option to provide itemized pay statements on a monthly basis and extended the time an employer has to respond to a request to inspect or copy pay statements from 21 to 28 calendar days. AB 2613 would have imposed penalties on employers who violate Labor Code provisions requiring payment of wages twice per month on designated paydays, and once per month for exempt employees.

Flexible Work Schedules. AB 2482 would have allowed private non-exempt employees, not subject to collective bargaining agreements, to request a flexible work schedule to work ten hours per day within a 40-hour workweek without overtime compensation.

Marijuana. AB 2069 would have provided that the medical use of cannabis by a qualified patient with an identification card is subject to a reasonable accommodation by an employer.

Another Failed PAGA Effort. AB 2016 would have required an employee’s required written PAGA notice to the employer include a more in-depth statement of facts, legal contentions, and authorities supporting each allegation, and include an estimate of the number of current and former employees against whom the alleged violations were committed and on whose behalf relief is sought. AB 2016 would have prescribed specified notice procedures if the employee or employee representative seeks relief on behalf of ten or more employees. The bill excluded health and safety violations from PAGA’s right-to-cure provisions, increased the time the employer had to cure violations from 33 to 65 calendar days, and provided an employee may be awarded civil penalties based only on a violation actually suffered by the employee.

Sick Leave. AB 2841 would have increased an employer’s alternate sick leave accrual method from 24 hours by the 120th calendar day of employment to 40 hours of accrued sick leave or paid time off by the 200th calendar day of employment—but not needing to exceed 80 hours. An employer would have been able to limit the amount sick leave carried over to the following year to 40 hours. This provision would have applied to IHSS providers on January 1, 2026.

Criminal History. AB 2680 would have required the CA Department of Justice to adopt a standard form that employers would have to use when seeking the consent of an applicant for employment to conduct a conviction history background check on that applicant by the department. SB 1298 would have placed limits on the criminal history reporting that DOJ would provide to employers and required DOJ to provide the subject with a copy of the information and at least five days to challenge its accuracy before releasing it to the employer. AB 2647 would have prohibited evidence of a current or former employee’s criminal history from being admitted, under specified circumstances, in a civil action based on the current or former employee’s conduct against an employer, an employer’s agents, or an employer’s employees.

With this summary, our legislative team bids you, and Governor Jerry Brown, adieu. But don’t forget to sign up and attend our upcoming webinar for our verbal tribute to this year’s L&E legislation and Governor Brown’s final acts.

Seyfarth Synopsis: New statutory obligations for California employers in 2018 will include prohibitions on inquiries into applicants’ salary and conviction histories, expanding CFRA to employees of smaller employers, expansion of mandatory harassment training to include content on gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation, and new immigration-related restrictions and obligations.

California Governor Jerry Brown spent his last day to sign bills in this Legislative Session, October 15, approving and rejecting a number of employment-related bills. Below is our annual summary of those bills that will have—or would have had—the greatest impact on California employers. All approved bills become effective January 1, 2018, unless stated otherwise. Watch this blog for in-depth pieces on the bills below that will pose the most challenges for employers.

APPROVED

Salary Inquiry Ban. After two unsuccessful attempts, AB 168 received the Governor’s approval to make it unlawful in California law for employers, including state and local governments, to ask applicants about their prior salary, compensation, and benefits. The employer may consider prior salary information the applicant voluntarily and without prompting discloses, in setting pay. Don’t forget that Labor Code section 1197.5 already prohibits an employer from using an applicant’s salary history, by itself, to justify a pay disparity. AB 168 will also require employers to provide the position’s pay scale to a job applicant upon reasonable request. Read our in-depth piece on AB 168, and practical implications, here. Adds Section 432.3 to the Labor Code.

Meanwhile, yesterday the Governor vetoed the other pay equity bill we were watching, Gender Pay Gap Transparency Act, AB 1209. More on that bill below.

Ban-the-Box: Prior Conviction History of Applicants. With the approval of AB 1008, the Governor and California Legislature have created yet another protected class of individuals entitled to sue employers under the Fair Employment and Housing Act: applicants denied employment because of their conviction history, where the employer is unable to justify relying on that conviction history to deny employment. AB 1008 makes it unlawful for an employer to include questions seeking disclosure of an applicant’s criminal history on any employment application, inquire or consider the conviction history of an applicant before extending a conditional offer employment, or consider or distribute specified criminal history information in conducting a conviction history background check. If an employer intends to deny a position solely or in part because of the applicant’s prior conviction, the employer must make an individualized assessment of whether the applicant’s conviction history has a direct and adverse relationship with the duties of the job, consider certain topics, and allow the applicant to dispute the accuracy of the conviction history. Read our in-depth analysis, implications, and tips, of the “Scarlet Letter Act” here. Adds Section 12952 to the Government Code, and repeals Section 432.9 of the Labor Code.

New Parent Leave Act and Parental Leave DFEH Mediation Pilot Program. SB 63 extends CFRA’s protections to smaller employers (with at least 20 employees within 75 miles) and prohibits those employers from refusing to allow employees—with more than 12 months and at least 1,250 hours of service—to take up to 12 weeks of parental leave to bond with a new child within one year of the child’s birth, adoption, or foster care placement. An employer employing both parents who both are entitled to leave for the same child does need not give more than 12 weeks of leave total to the employees (which may be granted simultaneously if the employer chooses). Further, an employer can recover the costs of maintaining the health plan for employees that do not to return to work after their leave exhausts because of a reason other than a serious health condition or other circumstances beyond the employee’s control. Beginning January 1, 2018 and ending January 1, 2020, the DFEH, after receiving funding from the Legislature, will create a parental leave mediation pilot program under which an employer may request all parties to participate in mediation within 60 days of receiving a right-to-sue notice. This bill prohibits an employee from pursuing any civil action under these provisions (and tolls the statute of limitations) until the mediation is complete, meaning when either party elects not to participate, withdraws from mediation, or notifies the DFEH that further mediation would be fruitless. Adds Section 12945.6 to the Government Code.

Retaliation: Expanding The Labor Commissioner’s Authority. With the Governor’s October 3 approval of SB 306, the DLSE will be authorized to investigate an employer—with or without a complaint being filed—when, during a wage claim or other investigation, the Labor Commissioner suspects retaliation or discrimination. The bill will also allow the Labor Commissioner or an employee to seek injunctive relief (that the employee be reinstated pending resolution of the claim) upon a mere finding of “reasonable cause” that a violation of the law has occurred. That injunctive relief, however, would not prohibit an employer from disciplining or firing an employee for conduct that is unrelated to the retaliation claim. The bill also authorizes the Labor Commissioner to issue citations directing specific relief to persons determined to be responsible for violations and to create certain procedural requirements. Amends Section 98.7 and adds Sections 98.74, 1102.61, and 1102.62 to the Labor Code.

Immigration: Worksite Enforcement Actions. AB 450, the “Immigrant Worker Protection Act,” prohibits employers from allowing immigration enforcement agents to have access to non-public areas of a workplace, absent a judicial warrant, and prohibits immigration enforcement agents to access, review, or obtain employee records without a subpoena or court order, subject to a specified exception. This bill requires an employer to provide notice of an immigration agency’s inspection of I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification forms or other employment records within 72 hours of receiving the federal notice of inspection—using a template created by the Labor Commissioner—to current employees; requires an employer to provide affected employees (i.e., those who may lack work authorization or whose documents have deficiencies) a copy of the inspection notice, upon reasonable request; and requires employers to provide affected current employees, and their authorized representative, a copy of the immigration agency inspection results and written notice of the obligations of the employer and the affected employee arising from the action. The bill grants exclusive authority to the Labor Commissioner or Attorney General to enforce these provisions and requires that any penalty recovered be deposited in the Labor Enforcement and Compliance Fund. Penalties for failure to satisfy these prohibitions and for failure to provide the required notices are: $2,000 up to $5,000 for a first violation, and $5,000 up to $10,000 for each further violation. The Labor Commission may recover up to a $10,000 penalty for each instance an employer re-verifies the employment eligibility of a current employee at a time or in a manner not required by federal law. Stay tuned for a detailed analysis of AB 450 coming soon. Adds Sections 7285.1, 7285.2, and 7285.3 to the Government Code; adds Sections 90.2 and 1019.2 to the Labor Code.

Harassment Training: Gender Identity, Gender Expression, and Sexual Orientation. SB 396 requires employers with 50 or more employees to add items to already mandated biennial supervisory training to prevent sexual harassment. The new content must include practical examples to address harassment based on gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation. Employers must also post a DFEH-developed poster regarding transgender rights. The bill also makes changes to the Unemployment Insurance Code. Amends Sections 12950 and 12950.1 of the Government Code.

VETOED

Gender Pay Gap Transparency Act. AB 1209 would (as of July 2019) have required employers with at least 500 California employees to collect information on differences in pay between male and female exempt employees and between male and female Board members. The bill would have required employers to submit the information to the California Secretary of State by July 1, 2020, in a form consistent with Labor Code § 1197.5, and to provide an update to the Secretary of State every two years. The bill would have required the Secretary to publish the information on a public website if the Legislature provided it with sufficient funding. Yesterday the Governor vetoed the bill, stating—as many employers’ groups had pointed out—that the bill’s ambiguous wording made it unclear that the bill would “provide data that will meaningfully contribute to efforts to close the gender wage gap. Indeed, I am worried that this ambiguity could be exploited to encourage more litigation than pay equity.” He also cited the trust he has placed in his Pay Equity Task Force to provide guidance and recommendations to “assist companies around the state with assessing their current wage practices.” For more detail on implications of this bill had it passed, click through to our in-depth analysis on AB 1209.

Reproductive Health. The Governor vetoed AB 569 on October 15, stating that the FEHA “has long banned such [reproductive health-based] adverse actions, except for religious institutions. I believe those types of claims should remain within the jurisdiction of the [DFEH].” The bill would have added a provision to the Labor Code prohibiting an employer from taking adverse employment action against an employee or the employee’s dependents or family members for their reproductive health decisions, including the use of any drug, device, or medical service (e.g., birth control, abortions, or in vitro fertilization). An employer that violates this prohibition would have been subject to penalties under Labor Code § 98.6, as well as reinstatement, reimbursement of lost wages and interest, and other appropriate compensation or equitable relief. This bill would have prohibited employers from attempting to contract out of these requirements, by making null and void any express or implied agreement waiving these requirements. The bill would have required employers to include a notice of these employee rights and remedies in their handbooks.

Employee Request: Injury and Illness Prevention Program. AB 978 would have required an employer to provide a free copy of the company’s injury prevention program to an employee, or their representative, within 10 days of receiving a written request. A representative would have included a recognized or certified collective bargaining agent, attorney, health and safety professional, nonprofit organization, or immediate family member. AB 978 would have allowed an employer to take reasonable steps to verify the identity or the person making the written request and authorized an employer to assert impossibility of performance as an affirmative defense against allegations of violations of these provisions. Governor Brown found this bill to be “unnecessary and duplicative” of current regulatory proposals sitting with the Cal-OSHA Standards Board and noted that their advisory committee would be “better suited to determine how to properly implement requirements of this kind.”

BILLS THAT FAILED TO MAKE THE LEGISLATIVE CUT

Opportunity to Work Act. The notorious AB 5 would have required employers with 10 or more employees in California to offer additional hours of work to existing nonexempt employees before the employer could hire additional or temporary employees. This bill piggy-backed on the San Jose voter-approved Opportunity to Work Ordinance that, effective March 2017, would have required employers to offer part-time employees additional hours before hiring new or temporary employees. Read more on what AB 5 would have implemented herehere, and watch here.

Rest Breaks. AB 817 would have created an exception to Labor Code section 226.7’s off-duty “rest period” requirement for employers providing emergency medical services to the public. The bill would have allowed EMS employers to require their employees to monitor and respond to emergency response calls during rest or recovery periods without penalty, so long as the rest period is rescheduled.

Retail Employees: Holiday Overtime. AB 1173 would have established an employee-selected overtime exemption that would have allowed a “retail industry” employee to work up to 10 hours per day with no overtime pay during the holiday season (November through January). Overtime paid at time and one-half of the employee’s regular pay rate would have applied to over 40 hours worked in a workweek or 10 in a work day; double time would have applied to work over 12 hours per day and over eight hours on the fifth, sixth, or seventh day in a workweek. The bill would have required employees to submit a written request for the flexible work schedule for approval by the employer. The authors of this bill did not specifically define what “retail industry” would have meant.

Overtime Compensation: Executive, Administrative, or Professional Employees. AB 1565 would have exempted an executive, administrative, or professional employee from overtime compensation if the employee earns a monthly salary of $3,956 or at least twice the state minimum wage for full-time employment, whichever is greater. This bill would have had California follow President Obama’s FLSA regulations increasing the yearly salary exempt threshold from $23,660 to $47,476 for executive, administrative, and professional workers. (Those regulations have been enjoined by a federal court.)

Health Professional Interns: Minimum Wage. AB 387 would have broadened the definition of employers required to pay minimum wage to include anyone who employs any person engaged in supervised work experience (i.e., students working clinical hours) to satisfy the requirements for licensure, registration, or certification as an allied health professional. This bill would have applied only to a work experiences longer than 100 hours and would not have applied to employers with fewer than 25 allied health professionals or a primary care clinic.

Resident Apartment Manager Wages. AB 543 would have extended an exemption from Industrial Welfare Commission orders allowing employers, who do not charge rent to a resident apartment manager pursuant to a voluntary agreement, to apply up to one-half of the apartment’s fair market value (no value cap) to meet minimum wage obligations to the apartment manager. This was up from the two-thirds previously provided but capped at $564.81 per month for singles, $835.49 for couples.

Voluntary Veterans’ Preference Employment Policy Act. Both AB 353 and its almost identical twin AB 1477 hoped to revise FEHA’s existing Vietnam-Era veterans’ status provision but failed to make it out of both houses and out of the house of origin, respectively. The bills would have expanded a private employer’s authority to institute and uniformly grant a hiring preference for veterans regardless of where the veteran served. The bills stated that the hiring preference would not have violated FEHA or any local or state equal opportunity employment law or regulation. But the bill would have prohibited the use of a veterans’ preference policy for the purpose of discrimination on the basis of any protected classification.

Credit and Debit Card Gratuities. AB 1099 would have required an entity—defined as “an organization that uses online-enabled applications or platforms to connect workers with customers … including, but not limited to, a transportation network company” (e.g., Uber)—to accept tips by credit or debit cards if the entity allows customers to pay with credit or debit cards. The bill would have required that the tip be paid to the worker the next regular payday following the date the customer authorized the card payment. This bill made it out of the Assembly but the author canceled its hearing in the Senate Committee on Labor and Industrial Relations so we may see this bill again next year.

Labor Organizations: Compulsory Fee Payments. AB 1174 would have established the “California Right to Work Act of 2017” to prohibit a requirement that employees pay into a labor union, charity, or other third party as a condition of employment or continuing employment. This bill would have made California part of the list of 28 other Right to Work states in the nation.

Employer Liability: Small Business and Microbusiness. AB 442 would have prohibited Cal OSHA from bringing any “nonserious violation” against small business or microbusiness employers without first notifying the employer of the violation and the right to cure within 30 days. This safe harbor would not have applied to any willful violation. The impact of this bill would have been far reaching—nearly 70% of California employers employ only a handful of employees.

Good Faith Defense: Employment Violations. SB 524 would have allowed an employer to raise an affirmative defense that, at the time of an alleged violation, the employer was acting in good faith when relying upon a valid published DLSE opinion letter or enforcement policy. This bill would not have applied to the DLSE’s prosecution of payment of unpaid wages.

PAGA: 2017’s Three Failed Efforts. 

AB 281 attempted to reform PAGA by (1) requiring an actual injury for an aggrieved employee to be awarded civil penalties, (2) excluding health and safety violations from the employer right to cure provisions, and (3) increasing employers’ cure period to 65 calendar days, up from 33.

AB 1429 would have limited the violations an aggrieved employee can bring, required the employee to follow specific procedures prior to filing suit, limited civil penalties recoverable to $10,000 per claimant and excluded the recovery of filing fees, and required the superior court to review any penalties sought as part of a settlement agreement.

AB 1430 would have required the Labor and Workforce Development Agency (“LWDA”) to investigate alleged Labor Code violations and issue a citation or determination regarding a reasonable basis for a claim within 120 calendar days; and allow an employee private action only after the LWDA’s reasonable basis notification or the expiration of the 120 day period. Read our further analysis of the proposed PAGA amendments here.

Workplace Solutions.

For more information on how these new Peculiarities might affect your company, read our in-depth focus blogs and contact your favorite Seyfarth attorney.

Seyfarth Synopsis: The California Legislature has just created yet another protected class of individuals entitled to sue employers under the Fair Employment and Housing Act. The new class of potential plaintiffs are applicants denied employment because of their conviction history, where the employer is unable to justify relying on that conviction history to deny employment.

We’ve reported on two January 2017 developments for California employers that use criminal records in employment decisions: (1) Los Angeles enacted a city-wide “ban-the-box” ordinance, and (2) the Fair Employment & Housing Council approved new regulations that borrow heavily from the EEOC’s April 2012 “Enforcement Guidance on the Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

The trend continues. Over the weekend, on October 14, 2017, Governor Jerry Brown announced that he has signed Assembly Bill 1008, which amends FEHA to add new Government Code section 12952. This section will restrict an employer’s ability to make hiring decisions based on an applicant’s conviction records, including a “ban-the-box” provision and a prohibition against considering conviction history until the applicant has received a conditional offer of employment. (It is only scant comfort to reflect that the final version of AB 1008 was not as stringent as the originally proposed bill, which would have placed even greater restrictions on consideration of criminal history.) With a fast-approaching effective date of January 1, 2018, California employers should review their policies and procedures now to ensure compliance.

Coverage

Section 12952, like other parts of FEHA, will apply to employers with five or more employees. Section 12592 exempts from its coverage only a small handful of positions:

  • positions for which government agencies are required by law to check conviction history,
  • positions with criminal justice agencies,
  • Farm Labor Contractors as defined in the Labor Code, and
  • positions as to which the law (g., SEC regulations) requires employers to check criminal history for employment purposes or restricts employment based on criminal history.

Inquiries About Conviction History

Section 12952 will make it unlawful for California employers to

  • include on a job application any question about conviction history, unless the application is presented after a conditional offer of employment,
  • inquire into or consider an applicant’s conviction history before extending a conditional offer of employment, and
  • consider, distribute, or disseminate information about criminal history that California already prohibits employers from considering, such as (a) an arrest not resulting in a conviction (except in the limited situations described in Labor Code section 432.7), (b) referral to or participation in a pretrial or post trial diversion program, and (c) convictions that have been sealed, dismissed, expunged, or statutorily eradicated pursuant to law.

Section 12952 expressly states that it will not prevent employers from conducting conviction history checks that are not covered by the new law.

Section 12952 borrows its definition of “conviction” from Labor Code section 432.7(a)(1), (3):  “a plea, verdict, or finding of guilt regardless of whether sentence is imposed by the court.” The term “conviction history” is somewhat broader, and can include certain arrests.

Individualized Assessment 

If an employer intends to deny hire because of a prior conviction, Section 12952 will require the employer to assess whether the individual applicant’s conviction history has a “direct and adverse relationship with the specific duties of the job that justify denying the applicant the position.” This individualized assessment must consider the nature and gravity of the criminal offense, the time that has passed since the offense and the completion of the sentence, and the nature of the job sought.

The employer, may, but need not, document the required individualized assessment.

Adverse Action Based on Conviction History

If the individualized assessment leads to a preliminary determination that the applicant’s conviction history is disqualifying, then the employer must provide a written notice. Section 12952 will require more than what the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires. Specifically, the written notice that Section 12952 will require must

  • identify the conviction at issue,
  • include a copy of any conviction history report (which means the notice is required regardless of the source of the conviction history),
  • explain the applicant’s right to respond to the notice before the employer’s decision becomes final,
  • state the deadline for that response, and
  • tell the applicant that the response may include evidence challenging the accuracy of the conviction history and evidence of rehabilitation or mitigating circumstances.

The applicant has five business days to respond to a preliminary notice. The employer, in then making its final employment decision, may, but need not, explain the reasoning for its final decision. (Note that the Los Angeles ordinance, by contrast, requires employers to document the individualized assessment and to give the applicant a copy of it before making a final decision.)

If the applicant timely notifies the employer that the applicant disputes the accuracy of the conviction history and is taking specific steps to obtain evidence, then the applicant has an additional five business days to respond. The employer must consider any information the applicant submits before the employer can make a final decision.

If an employer then makes a final decision to deny employment based solely or in part on conviction history, a second written notification must be provided to the applicant, which must include:

  • the final denial or disqualification,
  • any existing procedure the employer has to challenge the decision or request reconsideration, and
  • the right to file a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

Again, the employer may, but need not, explain its final decision. (Under the Los Angeles ordinance, new requirements arise when the applicant provides any additional information upon receipt of the employer’s first notice and its initial completed assessment: the employer receiving that additional information must then complete a re-assessment and provide the applicant with a copy of it while notifying the applicant of the final decision.)

Remedies 

Because Section 12952 will be part of the FEHA, an aggrieved individual may sue for the full range of FEHA damages available, including compensatory damages, attorney’s fees, and costs.

Next Steps

Most immediately, California employers should determine whether they need to revise job applications, interview guidelines, and policies and procedures for criminal background checks. Many employers will need to revise their pre-adverse and adverse action letters to comply with the many laws regulating criminal background checks, and to revamp the timing of events in their hiring process.

Employers throughout the United States, and particularly multi-state employers, should continue to monitor developments in this and related areas of the law, including laws restricting the use of credit history information and the fair credit reporting laws.

 

Seyfarth Synopsis:  After two previous failed attempts, California joins seven other U.S. jurisdictions to prohibit inquiries into an applicant’s salary history.  Read on for a recap of the new law.

With Governor Jerry Brown signing AB 168 into law today, California joins Delaware, Puerto Rico, Oregon, Massachusetts, New York City, Philadelphia (currently pending legal challenge), and its own city of San Francisco in prohibiting employers from asking job applicants for “salary history information.” This term includes both compensation and benefits.

AB 168 will add section 432.3 to the California Labor Code. While Section 432.3 will prohibit employers from asking about or relying on prior salary information in deciding whether to offer a job and in deciding how much to pay, Section 432.3 will give employers a pass when an applicant, “voluntarily and without prompting,” discloses salary history information. In that case, Section 432.3 will not prohibit the employer from relying upon the volunteered information in setting the applicant’s starting salary. But note that the California Fair Pay Act (Lab. Code § 1197.5(a)(2)) forbids employers to rely on prior salary, by itself, to justify any disparity in pay.

Section 432.3 will also make California the first jurisdiction in the country to require that employers provide applicants with the pay scale for a position, upon “reasonable request.”

Section 432.3 will apply to “all employers”—both private and public—and will become effective January 1, 2018.

Seyfarth Synopsis: Governor Jerry Brown has till October 15 to approve bills the Legislature sent to his desk by its Friday, September 15, deadline, including bills that would require employers to ”show us the money” for certain employees and to make “mum be the word” for an applicant’s past conviction history.

The 2017 California Legislative Session kicked off on January 4, 2017, with lawmakers introducing over 2,200 bills. Of the many employment-related bills introduced, only a small handful made the Legislative cut. But some, addressed below, could have significant impacts on employers. Will the Governor sign or veto these possible new California peculiarities? We’ll know by his October 15 signing deadline. (Wondering what bills did not make the cut? We’ll include those in our post-October 15 wrap-up.)

Gender Pay Gap Transparency Act. AB 1209—called by some the “public shaming of California employers” bill—would require employers with at least 500 California employees to, beginning July 1, 2019, collect information on differences in pay between male and female exempt employees, by job classification and title, and male and female Board members. The bill would require employers submit the information to the California Secretary of State by July 1, 2020, in a form consistent with Labor Code § 1197.5 (California’s fair pay statute), and, to provide an update to the Secretary every two years. The bill would require the Secretary to publish the information on a public website if the Legislature provides it with sufficient funding. For more detail, click through to our in-depth analysis on AB 1209.

Salary Inquiry Ban. AB 168 would prohibit employers from relying on an applicant’s salary history when deciding whether to offer employment and what salary to offer, and from seeking an applicant’s salary history. The bill expressly authorizes employers, in setting pay, to consider salary history that an applicant discloses voluntarily and without prompting, but affirms Labor Code § 1197.5’s prohibition against using salary history by itself to justify a disparity in pay. The bill would require an employer to provide a job applicant with the position’s pay scale upon reasonable request. The bill would apply to all employers but not to salary information available to the public pursuant to the California Public Records Act or the Freedom of Information Act. This bill comes on the heels of last year’s fair pay legislation AB 1676 and Governor Brown’s veto of AB 1017 (last year’s bill to prohibit salary history inquiries), which veto (he explained) was an effort to give SB 358 (the Fair Pay Act) a chance to work. The new bill also follows in the footsteps of similar legislation in San Francisco, New York City, Philadelphia (stayed pending legal challenge), Delaware, Puerto Rico, Oregon and Massachusetts.

Prior Conviction History of Applicants. AB 1008, dubbed the “Scarlet Letter Act,” by Assembly Member Kevin McCarty on the Assembly Floor, would repeal existing Labor Code § 432.9 and add a section to the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), which would prohibit an employer with five or more employees from (1) including on any employment application a question seeking disclosure of a job applicant’s conviction history, (2) inquiring into or considering an applicant’s conviction history until after extending a conditional offer of employment, and (3) while conducting a conviction history background check in connection with an employment application, considering, distributing, or disseminating information related to (a) certain arrests not followed by a conviction, (b) referral to or participation in a pretrial or post trial diversion program, and (c) convictions that have been sealed, dismissed, expunged, or statutorily eradicated.

As to an employer that intends to deny employment to a job applicant because of the applicant’s conviction history, this bill would also require the employer to:

  • Make an individualized assessment of whether the conviction history has a direct and adverse relationship with the specific duties of the job—considering the nature and gravity of the offense, the time passed since the offense and completion of the sentence, and the nature of the job held or sought.
  • Notify the applicant in writing of a preliminary decision to deny employment based on that individualized assessment, including disqualifying convictions forming the basis for rescission of the employment offer, a copy of the applicant’s conviction history report, and explanation of the applicant’s right to respond to the preliminary decision before it is final.
  • Allow the applicant specified periods of time to respond, then consider information submitted by the applicant before making a final decision, and then notify the applicant in writing of the final denial or disqualification, of any existing procedure the employer has for the applicant to challenge the decision, and of the right to file a complaint with the DFEH.

The bill’s provisions would not apply to positions with criminal justice agencies, state or local agencies required to conduct background checks, farm labor contractors, and employers required by state, federal, or local law to conduct background checks or restrict employment based on criminal history. The bill would also repeal (because this section would replace) a Labor Code provision prohibiting state or local agencies from asking an applicant for employment to disclose conviction history information.

Reproductive Health. AB 569 would add a provision to the Labor Code prohibiting an employer from taking adverse employment action against an employee or the employee’s dependents or family members for their reproductive health decisions, including the use of any drug, device, or medical service (e.g., birth control, abortions, or in vitro fertilization). An employer that violates this prohibition would be subject to penalties under Labor Code § 98.6, as well as reinstatement, reimbursement of lost wages and interest, and other appropriate compensation or equitable relief. This bill would prohibit employers from attempting to contract out of these requirements, by making null and void any express or implied agreement waiving these requirements. The bill would require employers to include a notice of these employee rights and remedies in its handbook.

This bill is the Legislature’s response to the 2012 U.S. Supreme Court case Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church & School v. EEOC, to provide employees of religiously affiliated institutions the same benefits and protections as other California employees, unless the employee is the functional equivalent of minister, subject to a “ministerial exception” as developed in First Amendment case law. The Legislature agrees with Justice Alito, in his concurring opinion, that the ministerial exception should apply only to an “employee who leads a religious organization, conducts worship services or important religious ceremonies or rituals, or serves as a messenger or teacher of its faith.” Supporters of this bill cite cases of employees being fired for getting pregnant while unmarried. The bill’s author, Assembly Member Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, stated on the Assembly floor that this bill “[is] an issue of basic health, privacy and worker rights.” The bill expressly states that it supplements, and does not limit, any right or remedy available under FEHA.

New Parent Leave Act and Parental Leave DFEH Mediation Pilot Program SB 63, the “New Parent Leave Act” would—through a new section added to the California Family Rights Act—extend CFRA’s protections to smaller employers (with at least 20 employees within 75 miles). The bill would prohibit those employers from refusing to allow employees with more than 12 months and at least 1,250 hours of service to take up to 12 weeks of parental leave to bond with a new child within one year of the child’s birth, adoption, or foster care placement. The bill would provide that an employer employing both parents who both are entitled to leave for the same child need not give more than 12 weeks of leave total to the employees (which may be granted simultaneously if the employer chooses). Further, an employer would be able to recover the costs of maintaining the health plan for employees who decide not to return to work after their leave exhausts because of a reason other than a serious health condition or other circumstances beyond the employee’s control.

SB 63 would also require the DFEH, when it receives funding from the Legislature, to create a parental leave mediation pilot program under which an employer may request all parties to participate in mediation within 60 days of receiving a right-to-sue notice. The bill would prohibit an employee from pursuing any civil action under these provisions (and toll the statute of limitations) until the mediation is complete. The mediation is considered complete when either party elects not to participate or withdraws from mediation, or notifies the DFEH that further mediation would be fruitless.

Retaliation: Expanding The Labor Commissioner’s Authority. SB 306 would authorize the DLSE to investigate an employer, with or without a complaint being filed, when retaliation or discrimination is suspected during a wage claim or other investigation being conducted by the Labor Commissioner. If the Labor Commissioner finds reasonable cause to believe a violation has occurred, the Labor Commissioner may seek injunctive relief. The bill would also allow an employee bringing a retaliation claim to seek injunctive relief upon showing that reasonable cause exists to believe the employee has been subject to adverse action for bringing the claim. The bill would provide that the injunctive relief would not prohibit an employer from disciplining or firing an employee for conduct that is unrelated to the retaliation claim. The bill would also authorize the Labor Commissioner to issue citations directing specific relief to persons determined to be responsible for violations and to create certain procedural requirements for such.

Immigration: Worksite Enforcement Actions. AB 450, known as the “Immigrant Worker Protection Act,” would prohibit employers from allowing immigration enforcement agents to have access to non-public areas of a workplace, absent a judicial warrant, and would prohibit immigration enforcement agents to access, review, or obtain employee records without a subpoena or court order, subject to a specified exception. This bill would also:

  • Require an employer to provide current employees with notices of an immigration agency’s inspection of I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification forms or other employment records within 72 hours of receiving the federal notice of inspection—using a template created by the Labor Commissioner.
  • Require an employer to provide affected employees (meaning employees who may lack work authorization or whose documents have deficiencies) a copy of the Notice of Inspection of I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification forms, upon reasonable request.
  • Require employers to provide to affected current employees, and to an employee’s authorized representative, a copy of the immigration agency notice that provides for the inspection results and written notice of the obligations of the employer and the affected employee arising from the action.
  • Grant exclusive authority to the Labor Commissioner or Attorney General to enforce the provisions of this bill and require that any penalty recovered be deposited in the Labor Enforcement and Compliance Fund.
  • Prescribe penalties for failure to satisfy the bill’s prohibitions and for failure to provide the required notices of $2,000 up to $5,000 for a first violation, and $5,000 up to $10,000 for each further violation.
  • Prohibit an employer from re-verifying the employment eligibility of a current employee at a time or in a manner not required by federal law, and authorize the Labor Commission to recover up to a $10,000 penalty for each violation.

Employee Request: Injury and Illness Prevention Program. AB 978 would require an employer to provide a copy—free of charge—to an employee, or to the employee’s representative, of the company’s injury prevention program within 10 days of a written request. A representative would include a recognized or certified collective bargaining agent, an attorney, a health and safety professional, a nonprofit organization advocate, or an immediate family member. The bill would allow the employer to take reasonable steps to verify the identity of the person making the written request. The bill would authorize an employer to assert impossibility of performance as an affirmative defense in any complaint alleging a violation of these new provisions.

Stay Tuned … check back for a full breakdown of this year’s legislative bills coming after the Governor’s October 15th deadline.

Seyfarth Synopsis: On September 11, AB 1209, the Gender Pay Gap Transparency Act, which would require larger employers in California to publish differences in pay between male and female employees and Board members, left the Legislature on route to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk for his approval or veto. A statewide salary history ban may soon be headed to his desk, as well.

In face of last month’s suspended implementation of “Component 2” of the Revised EEO-1 Report, which would have required employers with over 100 employees to submit W-2 pay and FLSA hours worked information, California moves forward with its own pay data transparency initiative.

Dubbed by Cal Chamber as the “public shaming of employers” bill, AB 1209 has undergone significant changes since Assembly Member Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher introduced it on February 17, 2017, as a nonsubstantive “spot bill” relating to wages.

After multiple amendments and the addition of coauthors from both houses, the version of AB 1209 sent to the Governor would require companies with at least 500 employees to compute differences between the wages of male and female exempt employees and board members located in California and file the report with the California Secretary of State (“SOS”). The SOS would in turn, publish this information on a public website.

What Will Employers Have to Do?

If the bill is signed by Gov. Brown, beginning on July 1, 2019, and biennially thereafter, impacted employers will have to collect and compute:

  • The difference between the wages of male and female exempt employees in California using both the mean and median wages in each job classification or title.
  • The difference between the mean and median wages of male board members and female board members located in California.
  • The number of employees used for these determinations.

This information would then be reported to the California SOS by January 1, 2020 (and biennially thereafter) on a form categorized consistent with Labor Code Section 1197.5—the California Fair Pay Act (“FPA”).

What Will the SOS Do with the Data?

The bill would have the SOS publish the reported information on a public website. While the current version of the bill would no longer require companies to publicly publish their own data, placing that duty on the SOS would be no less dangerous for employers.

As Jennifer Barrera of Cal Chamber and Kara Bush of the Computing Technology Industry Association wrote in a recent Sacramento Bee article: “Public display of the data adds insult to injury. Employers would be required to provide statistics on job duties, wages and gender, but without the factors such as experience and seniority that the law says are legitimate reasons for wage gaps. That’s propounding a half-truth—and a public relations windfall for plaintiffs’ attorneys.” Proponents of the bill contend this bill would help to close the gender wage gap. The bill’s author, Assembly Member Gonzalez Fletcher, touts the bill as giving “the public very precise data about which big companies are paying women the salaries they deserve, and which aren’t.” She also said: “Sunlight is a great way to help expose and address this [gender pay disparity] problem.”

No Per Se Violations of the California Fair Pay Act

The bill provides that “a gender wage differential in the information provided under this [new Labor Code] section [the bill would create] is not, in itself, a violation of Section 1197.5.” Nor does the bill impose any penalty or right of action by its own terms. The bill’s opponents have argued it does not need to, because it effectively forces employers to hand over to potential plaintiffs all information they might need to file a lawsuit, without any context that would explain permissible differentials.

Salary History Ban May Also be Headed to Governor’s Desk

The Governor has until October 15, 2017, to consider and sign or veto this and any other bills.

He may also have before him for consideration AB 168, which, as currently drafted, would prohibit an employer from asking for, or relying upon, an applicant’s salary history, consistent with similar bans in San Francisco, New York City, Philadelphia (stayed pending legal challenge), Delaware, Puerto Rico, Oregon and Massachusetts.

AB 168 passed the Senate yesterday, September 12th, and is headed back to the Assembly for a concurrence vote.

Will the Gov Sign One or Both of These Bills? 

Since signing the Fair Pay Act in 2015, Governor Brown has shied away from approving bills making anything other than incremental changes to that Act (last year adding race and ethnicity to gender and prohibiting prior salary alone from justifying a pay disparity), stating the FPA should be given time to work to see if stricter legislation is needed. But the Trump Administration’s pullback of the revised EEO-1 report may provide an impetus for Governor Brown to treat California’s own gender pay gap initiative more favorably.

Stay tuned for our full legislative updates in the coming weeks. For information on how this bill might affect your company, contact your favorite Seyfarth attorney or any member of Seyfarth’s Pay Equity Group.

Seyfarth Synopsis: Employers in California: be aware and prepare for new laws increasing minimum wages and mandating overtime pay for agricultural employees; expanding the California Fair Pay Act to race and ethnicity and to address prior salary consideration; imposing new restrictions on background checks and gig economy workers; and more. Small employers will be relieved the Governor vetoed expanded unpaid parental leave, but it will likely return in future sessions.

Friday, September 30, was Governor Jerry Brown’s deadline to sign or veto bills approved during the 2015-2016 Legislative Session. We summarize below this year’s bills that did and did not receive the Governor’s signature. Read on to prepare for our October 6 webinar offering Workplace Solutions for these pesky new Cal-peculiarities and register here.

SIGNED

Pay Equity

Fair Pay Act: Prior Salary & Race/Ethnicity. Saving some high-profile approvals to the last day, on Friday the Governor signed into law AB 1676 and SB 1063.  AB 1676 amends last year’s Fair Pay Act, Section 1197.5 of the Labor Code, to prohibit employers from considering prior salary as the sole justification for any disparity in compensation. SB 1063 expands the Fair Pay Act to race and ethnicity, and responds to critics that the pay equity issue is not limited to gender.  Specifically, it would prohibit employers from paying employees a wage less than the wage paid to employees of a different race or ethnicity for substantially similar work. Since both bills were signed by the Governor, both bills’ substantive changes will become law, though only the last-chaptered bill will be that which officially becomes law.

Before amendments applied in the legislative process, AB 1676 would have prohibited employers from seeking an applicant’s salary history information just as its vetoed predecessor, AB 1017, attempted to do last year. In vetoing AB 1017, Governor Brown stated that we should wait to see whether last year’s momentous Fair Pay Act, SB 358, addressed the pay equity issue before making further changes.  The amendments likely made this amendment palatable to the Governor, and kept California from matching the new Massachusetts law prohibiting Massachusetts employers from requesting the compensation history of a prospective employee before making an offer, unless the prospective employee has “voluntarily” disclosed that information. Amends Labor Code Sections 1197.5 and 1199.5. Effective January 1, 2017.

Wage and Hour

Agricultural Workers. AB 1066  enacts the “Phase-In Overtime for Agricultural Workers Act of 2016,” which requires employers to pay agricultural workers overtime over a four-year phase-in process. Beginning January 1, 2019, employers are required to pay overtime for any hours worked over 9.5 hours per day or 55 hours per workweek. Each year the hours worked triggering overtime pay will reduce, until reaching 8 hours per day, 40 hours per week, beginning January 1, 2022. Also beginning on January 1, 2022, any employee who works over 12 hours per day must be paid at a rate no less than double the regular rate of pay. The Governor may temporarily suspend the scheduled overtime requirement but only if the minimum wage increases are suspended as well. Employers that employ 25 or fewer employees will have an extra three years to comply with the phase-in and must begin paying overtime by January 1, 2022.  This bill began as AB 2757, which failed to pass the house of origin in June.  Undeterred, author Assembly Member Lorena Gonzales resurrected it with the legislative “gut and amend” trick, putting its contents into a bill formerly relating to educational employees.  Amends Labor Code Section 554 and adds Chapter 6 (commencing with Section 857) to Part 2 of Division 2 of the Labor Code.  Effective January 1, 2017.

Minimum Wage Violation Challenges. AB 2899 requires that any employer, before appealing a decision by the Labor Commissioner (LC) relating to a violation of wage laws, must file a bond—in favor of the unpaid employee—with the LC that covers the total amount of any minimum wages, liquidated damages, and overtime compensation owed. The bill also provides that the total amount of the bond is to be forfeited to the employee if the employer fails to pay the amounts owed within 10 days from the conclusion of the proceedings. Amends Labor Code Section 1197.1. Effective January 1, 2017.

Itemized Wage Statements. AB 2535 comes on the heels of the recent federal decision, Garnett v. ADT,  and clarifies Labor Code section 226. This bill specifies that employers need not list the number of hours worked on wage statements for any employee who is exempt from minimum wage and overtime requirements under the applicable IWC Wage Order or under statutes specified in Labor Code Section 226(j). Amends Labor Code Section 226.  Effective January 1, 2017.

Leaves of Absence

Paid Family Leave Expansion.  AB 908, which the Governor signed on April 11, 2016, increases the amount of benefits paid to employees on paid family leave and state disability leave from the current level of 55 percent to either 60 or 70 percent depending on the applicant’s income.  Read our report on AB 908 hereAffects Sections 2655, 3303, and 2655.1 of the Unemployment Insurance Code. Effective January 1, 2017, but provisions of the bill not operative until January 1, 2018.

Background Checks

Criminal History. AB 1843 prohibits employers from asking an applicant for employment to disclose any information regarding juvenile convictions and seeking or utilizing any information related to juvenile arrests, detentions, or court dispositions as a factor in employment determination. The bill does specify that an employer at a health facility can inquire into an applicant’s juvenile criminal background if a juvenile court made a final ruling or adjudication, that the applicant had committed a felony or misdemeanor relating to sex crimes or certain controlled substances crimes within five years prior to applying for employment. Still, these employers cannot inquire into an applicant’s sealed juvenile criminal records. Read more about existing California law on background checks hereAmends Labor Code Section 432.7.  Effective January 1, 2017.

Unfair Immigration-Related Practices. SB 1001 is a redux of 2015’s AB 1065, which was held in committee (and which we reported on here). SB 1001, like AB 1065, makes it an unlawful employment practice to request more or different documents than required under federal law to verify that an individual is not an unauthorized immigrant, or to refuse to honor documents tendered that on their face reasonably appear to be genuine, refuse to honor documents or work authorization based on specific status or term that accompanies the authorization to work, or to attempt to reinvestigate or re-verify an incumbent employee’s authorization to work using an unfair immigration-related practice. This year’s bill provision states that job applicants and employees who suffer an “unfair immigration-related practice” can file a complaint with the DLSE for enforcement. The bill provides that a violation of these provisions can result in a penalty of up to $10,000. Adds Section 1019.1 to the Labor Code.  Effective January 1, 2017.

Transportation Network Companies

Background Checks. AB 1289 requires a transportation network company (“TNC”; e.g., Uber) to conduct, or have a third party conduct, criminal background checks on each participating driver. This bill follows a 2014 lawsuit that accused TNCs of misleading customers by suggesting their background checks were the toughest in the industry. The bill also prohibits a TNC from contracting with a driver who is currently registered on the DOJ’s National Sex Offender Public Website; has been convicted of specified felonies within the past seven years; and/or has been convicted, within the past seven years, of misdemeanor assault or battery, domestic violence, or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Adds Section 5445.2 to the Public Utilities Code.  Effective January 1, 2017.

Driving Under the Influence. AB 2687 makes it unlawful for a person to drive a vehicle with a blood alcohol level (BAC) of 0.04% or more when a passenger for hire is in the vehicle. The bill comes as an effort to lower taxi cab and ride sharing service driver’s BAC limit—currently at 0.08%—to the BAC limit of 0.04% as required for commercial motor vehicle drivers. Amends Vehicle Code Sections 23152 and 23153.  Effective July 1, 2018.

Personal Vehicles. AB 2763 defines a personal vehicle, used by a participating driver in a transportation network company, as one that has a passenger capacity of eight persons or less, (including the driver) and is owned, leased, or rented for a term that does not exceed 30 days, or otherwise authorized for use by the participating driver. Amends Public Utilities Code Section 5431.  Effective January 1, 2017.

Discrimination/Harassment

Employment Protections. AB 2337 expands the notice requirement employers with twenty-five or more employees must give to employees regarding domestic violence protections. Specifically, this bill provides that an employer must inform each new employee—and other employees upon request—of the rights protecting employees affected by domestic violence in writing. The Labor Commissioner is charged with developing the form providing notice by July 1, 2017.  Employers are not required to provide notice until the Labor Commissioner posts the form. Amends Labor Code Section 230.1.  Effective July 1, 2017.

Sexual Harassment Prevention Training. AB 1661 requires local agency officials to receive two hours of training and education on sexual harassment prevention within the first six months of taking office or commencing employment. To meet the requirements of this bill, local agency officials, including any member of a legislative body and any elected official of cities and counties, and special districts, must continue to receive this training once every two years. While AB 1661 is specific to local agency officials, AB 1825, enacted in 2004, established the same provisions for the workplace. AB 1661 comes on the heels of various high-profile sexual harassment cases against elected officials. Adds Article 2.4.5 (commencing with Section 53237) to Chapter 2 of Part 1 of Division 2 of Title 5 of the Government code.  Effective January 1, 2017.

Employment Discrimination. AB 488 allows individuals employed under a special license in a nonprofit sheltered workshop or rehabilitation facility to bring an action under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) for prohibited harassment or discrimination. This bill came as an expansion of AB 1443, enacted in 2014, which extended FEHA’s protections to unpaid interns and volunteers. AB 488 now extends FEHA’s protections to workers with disabilities. Amends Section 12926, and adds Section 12926.05 to, the Government Code. Effective January 1, 2017.

Other Employee Protections

Employment Contracts—Choice of Law and Forum. SB 1241 prohibits an employer from requiring an employee, who resides and works in California, as a condition of employment, to agree to a provision that would either require the employee to litigate or arbitrate employment disputes (1) outside of California or (2) under the laws of another state. The only exception is where the employee was individually represented by a lawyer in negotiating an employment contract. The bill provides that any contract that violates these provisions is voidable by the employee. A court may award an employee reasonable attorney’s fees, among other remedies, for enforcing rights under the act. Read our in-depth report on SB 1241 hereAdds Section 925 to the Labor Code.  Effective January 1, 2017.

Employment Heat Safety. SB 1167 provides that the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) shall propose to the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (Standards Board) for review and adoption, a standard that minimizes heat-related illness and injury among workers working in indoor places of employment by January 1, 2019. This bill comes as a response to a 2012 OSHA decision, upheld in 2015 by the Cal/OSHA appeals board, in which a staffing company and warehouse operator were fined for the heat illness suffered by an employee who was working inside a metal freight contained in over 100 degree heat. Adds Section 6720 to the Labor Code.  Effective January 1, 2019.

Employee Contact Information. AB 2843 expands an existing provision of the California Public Records Act (CPRA) that exempts the homes addresses and home telephone numbers of certain public employees from public disclosure to now cover all public employees, including persons paid by the state to provide in-home support services. Additionally, this bill extends the CPRA exemption to include the employee’s personal cell phone number and birth date. However, telephone numbers will be made available to bargaining agents for those employees. Amends Government Code Sections 6253.2 and 6254.3.  Effective January 1, 2017.

Industry Specific

Property Service Workers. AB 1978 creates the Property Services Workers Protection Act by establishing various requirements for the janitorial industry, including registering annually with the DLSE, to protect janitorial employees from wage theft and sexual harassment. The provisions of this bill apply to employers that employ at least one “covered worker” who enters into a contract, subcontract, or franchise agreement to provide janitorial services. This bill also requires the DLSE to maintain a database of property service employers and to develop a biennial sexual harassment and violence prevention training. This bill prohibits an employer from registering or renewing its registration if it has not fully satisfied any final judgment for unpaid wages or made appropriate tax contributions. “Successor employers” are also liable for any wages and penalties owed to the predecessor’s employees. The bill was signed while janitors were fasting outside of the CapitolAdds Part 4.2 (commencing with Section 1420) to Division 2 of the Labor Code.  Effective July 1, 2018.

Talent Services. AB 2068 updates the Talent Service Act’s existing communication and contractual protections to include new technologies, such as mobile applications. Specifically, AB 2068 strengthens the protection for an artist’s information or image to include information posted on an online service, online application, mobile application, or website. AB 2068 also updates the communication and advertisement protections between talent agencies and artists by including communication through the use of a telecommunication device, in print, on the Internet, or through the use of a mobile or online application or other electronic communication. AB 2068 also adds “text message” and other “electronic communication” to the list of methods by which an artist may ask that photographs and other information about the artist be removed from a website, online service, online application, or mobile application owned or serviced by the talent service. Amends Labor Code Sections 1703 and 1703.4.  Effective January 1, 2017.

Work Experience Education. AB 2063 provides an additional option for a student, at least 14 years old, to participate in work experience education. The bill also increases the number of hours per week a student may participate in job shadowing from 25 to 40 hours per semester, if the principal of the school where the student is enrolled certifies that it is necessary for the student’s participation in a career technical education program. Amends Education Code Section 51760.3 and 51769.  Effective January 1, 2017.

Commercial Online Entertainment Employment Services. AB 1687 addresses age discrimination in the entertainment industry by prohibiting a commercial online entertainment employment service (i.e., IMDb) that enters into a contract, from publishing a subscriber’s age or date of birth in an online profile. Proponents of this legislation cited cases such as Hoang v. Amazon.com, Inc, et al, in which a subscriber sued for having her age published on her profile page. The bill also requires that a service provider—upon request by the subscriber—remove age information from public view in any online profile under its control. Adds Section 1798.83.5 to the Civil Code. Effective January 1, 2017.

Other

Single-User Restrooms. AB 1732 requires all single-user toilet facilities in any business establishment, place of accommodation, or government agency to be identified as all-gender toilet facilities. The bill also provides that local officials responsible for code enforcement are to inspect for compliance. Adds Article 5 (commencing with Section 118600) to Chapter 2 of Part 15 of Division 104 of the Health and Safety Code.  Effective March 1, 2017.

VETOED (i.e., “it coulda been worse”)

Parental Leave. SB 654 would have significantly expanded California’s parental leave laws by requiring employers with 20 to 49 employees to provide up to six weeks of unpaid, job-protected parental leave and paid health benefits to bond with a new child within one year of the child’s birth, adoption, or foster care placement. Existing law—the California Family Rights Act—applies only to employers with 50 or more employees, and provides for at least 12 weeks of job-protected parental leave. The Governor vetoed this bill on September 30, stating: “It goes without saying that allowing new parents to bond with a child is very important and the state has a number of paid and unpaid benefit programs to provide for that leave.  I am concerned, however, about the impact of this leave particularly on small businesses and the potential liability that could result.  As I understand, an amendment was offered that would allow an employee and employer to pursue mediation prior to a lawsuit being brought.  I believe this is a viable option that should be explored by the author.”  In other words, we likely have not seen the last of this proposal.

Examination of Jurors. AB 1766 would have required that prospective jurors be referred to by either an identification number or abbreviation during voir dire in criminal trials. In his August 29 veto message, the Governor stated: “The open nature of criminal trials preserves both the defendant’s right to a fair and open trial, as well as the public’s faith in the court’s impartial application of the law. Under existing law, there are adequate remedies available if the court finds good cause to deny public access to the voir dire process or to specific juror information. These situations are best addressed on a case by case basis, and I do not believe there is a demonstrated need for a wholesale change at this time.”

BILLS THAT DIDN’T MAKE THE LEGISLATIVE CUT (i.e., “it coulda been a lot worse”)

Double Pay on the Holiday—2016 Edition. The Double Pay on Holiday Act of 2015 failed to make its way to the Governor for the second year in a row. AB 67 would have required retail and grocery store establishments, as well as restaurants located within them, to pay at least twice the regular rate of pay for employees who work on Thanksgiving.

Employee Time Off. AB 2405 would have required an employer to provide an employee at least eight hours annually of paid, job-protected, time off for an absence under the Family School Partnership Act. This bill came on the heels of SB 579, chaptered in 2015, which expanded the authorized reasons an employee can take job-protected time off under the Act and specified the definition of ‘family member” under California’s Kin Care. Read our report on SB 579 here.

Work Hours. SB 878 was similar to AB 357, the Fair Scheduling Act of 2015, which did not make it out of the Assembly. SB 878, the Reliable Scheduling Act of 2016, would have required that restaurant, grocery, and retail employers provide non-exempt employees with a 21-day work schedule in advance of their first shift on that work schedule. SB 878 would have required at least seven days advance notice. SB 878 would have required employers to pay “modification pay”—defined as compensation in addition to regular pay (the hourly rate calculated based upon 90 days prior)—if any scheduled shift is canceled, moved, or added, and for each shift for which an employee is required be on call but is not called into work.

Meal and Rest or Recovery Periods. AB 1948 would have provided a statutory remedy for an employer’s failure to provide a meal or rest or recovery period. The bill would have specified that the entire “penalty amount” was an additional hour or pay for each day that a meal or rest or recovery period was not provided to the employee.

California Workplace Flexibility Act. SB 985, SB 368’s predecessor, would have allowed employees to submit a written request for a flexible work schedule of up to four 10-hour days per week without obligating the employer to pay overtime for the 9th and 10th hours worked per day. The employer would have been obligated to pay overtime for any hours worked over 10 hours per workday or 40 hours per workweek.

Age Information in Employment. AB 984 would have prohibited an employer from using information obtained via websites regarding a person’s age to discriminate against an employee or applicant for employment. The bill also would have specified that a service provider is considered as doing business in this state and subject to California’s antidiscrimination laws when they knowingly accept payment from persons in California in exchange for posting their resumes and professional photos online.

Voluntary Veterans Preference Policy. AB 1383 would have created the Voluntary Veterans’ Preference Employment Policy Act to authorize a private employer to establish a written veterans’ preference employment policy. The bill also would have specified that granting a veteran preference, in and of itself, would not violate any local or state equal employment opportunity law or regulation, including, but not limited to, FEHA; and would have prohibited a veterans’ preference employment policy from being established or applied for the purpose of discriminating against an employment applicant on the basis of a protected classification.

Independent Contractors. AB 1727 would have established rights for independent contractors to organize and negotiate with “hosting platforms.” This bill would have provided a right for independent contractors to engage in “group activities” in an effort to negotiate through activities such as withholding work and boycotting or critiquing labor practices. The bill would have authorized an independent contractor or a representative of independent contractors claiming a violation under this bill to bring an action in superior court and to seek injunctive relief.

Employment Arbitration Agreements Discrimination. AB 2879, the “Service Member Employment Protection Act,” brought back the language of 2015’s AB 465, which the Governor vetoed (read our summary here), but limited the application to military service members, similar to USERRA. Specifically, the bill would have prohibited employers from requiring service members to waive any Labor Code protections, including the right to file and pursue a civil action or complaint, and would have prohibited employers from requiring service members to accept private arbitration, as a condition of employment, unless the waiver was “knowing and voluntary and not made as a condition of employment.”

DLSE Enforcement. AB 2261 would have provided the Department of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) with new independent authority to, with or without an employee complaint, bring an action against an employer that it suspects may have terminated or otherwise discriminated against an employee in violation of any law under the jurisdiction of the Labor Commissioner. The authors of this bill argued that despite laws providing employees protection and encouragement to report abuse, the reality is that many workers do not report out of fear of losing their jobs. AB 2261 was built upon AB 970, which the Governor signed into law last year, and which we wrote about here.

Employee Safety. AB 2895 would have required an employer to keep at each worksite with three or more employees a complete, updated copy of the currently required written injury prevention program and make it available for inspection by any employee or by the Division of Occupational Safety and Health upon request. The bill would have also required an employer to inform each employee of the availability, and employee’s rights, to inspect and receive a copy of the injury prevention program. Additionally, an employer that received a written request would have had to  comply within a specified timeframe. The bill would have also entitled the employee to injunctive relief if the employer did not timely respond to the request.

Human Trafficking Training. AB 1595 would have required public and private mass transportation providers (bus, train, light rail, etc.) to provide training to recognize and report the signs of human-trafficking to employees who were likely to interact with victims of human trafficking. AB 1942 would have required the same training as AB 1595 but it was specific to hotels and motels that provide lodging services.

Sexual Offenses Against Minors. AB 2199 would have defined a two-year sentence enhancement where a defendant who committed a sex crime against a minor held a position of authority over the minor. The bill specifically provided that a person in a “position of authority” included, but was not limited to, a stepparent, foster parent, partner of the parent, youth leader, recreational director, athletic manager, coach, teacher, counselor, therapist, religious leader, doctor, or employer, or employee of one of the aforementioned persons.

PAGA. AB 1317 expanded on last year’s bill, AB 1506, which was signed by the Governor, that gave employers a limited right to cure certain wage-statement violations before an aggrieved employee could sue under PAGA. This bill would have provided an employer a right to cure any violation of the Labor Code before an employee could sue and would have provided an appropriation to the Labor and Workforce Development Agency to establish new positions to review and investigate PAGA cases. This bill was stuck in the Senate committee on rules.

PAGA Reform. None of the bills in this year’s five-bill Private Attorneys’ General Act (PAGA) reform package made it out of the Assembly. Those bills were:

  • AB 2461 would have limited the violations an aggrieved employee was authorized to bring and required specific procedures before suing.
  • AB 2462 would have provided employers with a right to cure before an employee brought a civil action.
  • AB 2463 would have established a penalty cap of $1,000 for each aggrieved employee.
  • AB 2464 would have authorized a court to dismiss an action if the court found the aggrieved employee suffered no appreciable physical or economic harm.
  • AB 2465 would have required the Labor and Workforce Development Agency to investigate alleged violations and determine if there was a reasonable basis for a civil action.

Workplace Solutions.

Head spinning?  We’ll summarize all the new and almost-laws and give you practical tips to prepare for them in our webinar on October 6.  Register here.  Or feel free to contact any of the authors or your favorite Seyfarth attorney with any questions.

Seyfarth Synopsis: On September 25 (yes, a Sunday), Governor Brown signed into law Senate Bill 1241. SB 1241, effective January 1, 2017, adds Section 925 to the Labor Code to restrain the ability of employers to require employees to litigate or arbitrate employment disputes (1) outside of California or (2) under the laws of another state. The only exception is where the employee was individually represented by a lawyer in negotiating an employment contract.

For companies that have headquarters outside of California and that employ people who work and reside in California, this assault on the freedom of contract is not welcome news.

Existing Law and the Genesis of SB 1241

Companies have long used forum-selection clauses and choice-of-law provisions in an effort to avoid California courts apply California law to employment disputes, especially those involving unfair competition. SB 1241 generally invalidates these provisions.

There often are legitimate reasons to have employment disputes decided where the company primarily does its business. Companies may prefer a court in their own state to decide which law (California’s or some other state’s) will govern a dispute. Under the common law, courts apply “substantial relationship” and “contrary to a fundamental policy of a state” tests to see if California law or some other law should govern a particular case.

Courts have long held that the freedom to contract favors the enforcement of forum-selection clauses. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2013 reinforced this rule in Atlantic Marine Constr. Co. Although not an employment case, Atlantic Marine broadly endorsed forum-selection clauses, stating that “courts should not unnecessarily disrupt the parties’ settled expectations” and that usually “ ‘the interest of justice’ is served by holding parties to their bargain.” Since that time, federal district courts in California have increasingly given more weight to forum-selection clauses.

What SB 1241 Provides

As we reported earlier, SB 1241 was among various employment-related bills that went to the Governor at the end of August 2016. SB 1241, the full text of which appears here, will be enacted as Labor Code section 925. It applies to employment contracts entered into, modified, or extended on or after January 1, 2017.

The key provision of Section 925 is its first section:

(a) An employer shall not require an employee who primarily resides and works in California, as a condition of employment, to agree to a provision that would do either of the following:

(1) Require the employee to adjudicate outside of California a claim arising in California.

(2) Deprive the employee of the substantive protection of California law with respect to a controversy arising in California.

A key exception to the application of Section 925 appears in subdivision (e):

(e) This section shall not apply to a contract with an employee who is in fact individually represented by legal counsel in negotiating the terms of an agreement to designate either the venue or forum in which a controversy arising from the employment contract may be adjudicated or the choice of law to be applied.

Thus, Section 925 generally forbids employers to require California employees to adjudicate claims outside of California or to submit to the laws of another state. An employee who successfully sues to void such offending provisions can recover reasonable attorney’s fees. Lab. Code § 925(e).

History of Labor Code Section 925

Section 925 represents a direct response to work-arounds that some employers have developed in attempts to dodge peculiar California law, such as California’s prohibition of covenants not to compete. (See Bus. & Prof. Code § 16600.)

Section 925 follows Governor Brown’s refusal to sign Assembly Bill 465. As we wrote earlier, AB 465 attempted to ban mandatory employment arbitration agreements. Governor Brown’s veto message explained that purported employment abuses “should be specified and solved by targeted legislation, not a blanket prohibition.” Section 925 is one such piece of targeted legislation, attacking contractual provisions that are hostile to California law, whether they appear in an arbitration clause or elsewhere within an employment agreement.

What Labor Code Section 925 Does and Does Not Do

Under prior law, a party seeking to enforce a forum-selection clause in an employment agreement already faced an uphill battle: it had to “prove that enforcement of the forum selection clause would not result in a significant diminution of rights.” Indeed, the Court of Appeal has refused to enforce an employer’s forum-selection clause and related choice-of-law clause because they violated California public policy on employee compensation. Section 925 changes the employer’s battle from difficult to hopeless: clauses that once were simply presumptively unenforceable will now be categorically unenforceable, except for clauses negotiated with an employee “individually represented by legal counsel.”

Although Section 925 apparently is a reaction to Governor Brown’s October 2015 veto of legislation that would have banned mandatory employment arbitration agreements, Section 925 applies to all employment contracts, regardless of whether they contain arbitration clauses. Section 925 affects arbitration clauses by ensuring that employment arbitrations with California residents generally will occur in California and apply California law. Arbitration clauses that contain forum-selection or choice-of-law provisions that offend Section 925 will be to that extent contrary to public policy, an outcome that would make enforcement of the overall arbitration agreement more difficult.

Section 925 does not affect employment agreements already in effect. By its terms, the law applies only to contracts entered into, modified, or extended on or after January 1, 2017.

Open Questions (or Things Left to Litigate)

Section 925 does not define what it means for an employee to “primarily reside[] and work[] in California.” Nor does it specify what qualifies as a “substantive protection of California law” that it seeks to protect.

Although the term “primarily” is vague, it often will not be difficult to determine whether an employee primarily resides and works in California. More difficult would be determining whether applying the law of another state would “[d]eprive the employee of the substantive protection of California law.” Some California courts have recognized that choice-of-law provisions are enforceable where the substantive law of the selected state provides the same or similar protections as California.

By Kristina Launey

October 13, 2013, marked the last day for California Governor Jerry Brown to sign or veto bills the Legislature sent to him for approval in the first half of the 2013-14 Regular Session.  Of the bills we tracked as most relevant to our clients that made it to the Governor’s desk, the vast majority—18 of 23—will become law. 

View a full summary each of the approved, vetoed, and “two-year” (i.e., bills that did not make it to the Governor’s desk and that may resurface in 2014) bills here.

We’ve already blogged about the new bills that the Governor approved prior to the October 13 deadline.  In the coming weeks, we’ll blog about how more of the new laws, including the following, may affect employers doing business in California, and our thoughts for Workplace Solutions:

•   Changes to protected statuses, pre-employment inquiries, and leaves of absence/time off work;

•   New retaliation prohibitions for immigration-related practices;

•   New wage and hour laws including:

o   Liquidated damages for failure to pay minimum wage;

o   Amendment to Labor Code section 226.7 to include “recovery periods”;

o   Penalty for failure to remit withheld wages to the appropriate agency;

o   Specify no administrative exhaustion requirement for certain Labor Code provisions;

o   Impose up to $10,000 penalty upon employers for violation of Labor Code section 98.6;

o   Not to mention the minimum wage increase, which we reported here.

•   Farm labor contractor successor liability

•   Governor’s VETO of the law that would have modified the mixed-motive instruction (prompted by the ruling in Harris v. Santa-Monica).

Stay tuned.