January 1 typically ushers in a series of new state and federal laws. In California this year, there are a number of new employment laws that took effect on January 1 that could seriously impact employees, job applicants, and employers. In California, there are close to 30 new laws taking effect that can affect the workplace.

One big change is that starting January 1, California employers cannot ask job applicants about their criminal history before making a conditional offer of employment. The California Fair Chance Act prevents businesses with five or more employees from requesting information about an applicant’s criminal history on job applications, and from asking about or considering criminal history before making a conditional offer of employment.

California already has a law nicknamed “ban-the-box”, which prohibits employers from asking applicants for information about arrests that did not result in convictions. Under the new law, employers must make individual assessments about whether or not an applicant’s record of convictions would have a direct relationship with the job’s duties. The law is designed to give job seekers with a criminal history the chance to respond to an employer’s decision if a job offer was retracted based on criminal history. Lawmakers are hoping that the law will make it more likely that former offenders will return to prison, by offering them a chance to find stable employment.

Another change in California law is that employers can no longer ask about a job applicant’s prior salary or benefits. They also cannot ask others this information, such as job recruiters. Employers cannot use salary information to determine whether or not to hire someone or how much to pay them. However, if an applicant chooses to share that information voluntarily, the employer can choose to use that information in making a decision about employment or salary.

California also expanded parental leave for working parents. The New Parent Leave Act requires businesses with 20 or more employees to give eligible workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to bond with their babies. The leave must be taken within one year of the child’s birth, adoption, or foster care placement. Although federal law currently allows for maternity leave, it only applies to companies with over 50 employees. California’s old law also only provided leave to companies with 50 or more employees.  Under the new law, companies with between 20 and 49 employees will be required to provide this leave.

California law also now prohibits employers from giving federal immigration enforcement agents access to non-public areas of a business without a judicial warrant. They also cannot provide enforcement agents employee records unless there is a subpoena or a judicial warrant, unless a Notice of Inspection has been given to the employer to check I-9 documents. If a Notice of Inspection is given, employers must alert employees about the inspection within 72 hours of receiving that notice.

Finally, California’s state minimum wage has increased. For businesses with 25 or fewer employees, the minimum wage will rise to $10.50 an hour. For businesses with 26 or more workers, the minimum wage will rise to $11 an hour. This increase is part of a law that will eventually bring the minimum age to $15 an hour. However, many cities in California, particularly in the Bay area, have a higher minimum wage than the state minimum wage.

If you are an employer, you may need legal advice on implementing these new state employment laws. Employees may also need help ensuring that their legal rights are being protected. At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty believes that employers have a legal duty to keep up with California’s new employment laws and to ensure that their employees are being treated fairly. If you are in the Oakland-San Francisco area and you need to speak to an employment law attorney, call Micha Star Liberty, Oakland employment law attorney, at 510-645-1000. We can help. Call today to learn more or to schedule a free consultation.

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