Four New California Employment Laws for 2016… and One that Isn’t

If your business has employees, it’s important to keep up to date on the constantly changing laws that affect the employer-employee relationship.  Below are just a few of the many changes for employers starting on January 1, 2016.  (New laws are usually identified by which legislative chamber they originate in: AB stands for Assembly Bill; SB for Senate Bill.)

1. Equal Pay  California has had an equal pay law on the books since 1949, but this new law (SB 358) modifies the burden of proof, making it easier for employees to bring claims and harder for employers to defend.  Notably, before this law, employees did not have the right to ask other employees what their wages were in order to determine whether a claim existed.

2. Anti-Retaliation  It was already illegal to retaliate against an employee because the employer was forced to make an accommodation for a disability or religious belief.  AB 987 clarifies that an employer also cannot retaliate because an employee has simply requested such an accommodation.

3. Enforcing Judgments Against Employers  When an employee gets a judgment for unpaid wages, like any other judgment it needs to be collected.  SB 588 adds collection tools including putting a lien on the employer’s property, or even a stop order on the business.

4. More Anti-Retaliation  The existing anti-retaliation rules have been expanded under AB 1509 to include not just the person who engaged in some legally-protected conduct, but also that person’s family members.

As usual, a number of laws were passed by the legislature but did not get approved by the Governor.  I want to highlight one such vetoed law:

AB 465 would have prohibited binding arbitration agreements in employment.  If you’ve read my writing over the years, you’ll know that I am generally not in favor of arbitration agreements, but the employment context is the major exception to that rule.  I frequently advise employers to include arbitration agreements as part of their employment practices.  Had this law come into effect, it would have had an enormous effect on employer-employee relations in this state.

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