California’s lawmakers were busy last year. Over 30 state employment laws are set to take effect this year.
The most significant new employment law is the paid sick leave law. This law requires employers to provide paid sick leave to any employee who worked in California for 30 days or more within a year of being hired. Each employee must get at least one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked. There are limitations on the use of the sick leave time – employers can limit the paid time off to 24 hours or three days in each year of employment, and can stop employees from accumulating more leave once they have accumulated 48 hours or six days. All employers must offer paid sick leave. In other words, there is no exemption for smaller employees as there is in many employment laws. Accrual of sick leave must begin on July 1, 2015 or the first day of employment, whichever is later.
Another major change is that employers in California cannot discriminate against workers because they have a driver’s license that is issued to undocumented persons – an AB60 license. To get an AB60 license, the undocumented individuals must show proof of California residency as well as proof of identity. They do not have to prove they are legally in the country in order to get such a license. In some cases, employers may see that type of driver’s license and refuse to hire the individual on that basis alone, assuming they are in the country illegally.
Under the new law, an employer cannot do that. However, the employer still must require that the worker submit proof of their identity and authorization to work in the United States. That may seem a little nonsensical, because if the person has proof he or she is in the country legally, he or she would probably just get a regular driver’s license. Under the law though, if a potential employee presents an AB60 driver’s license and a document that appears valid on its face which establishes the individual’s right to work in the United States, the employer must accept the document. If a potential employee presents an AB60 driver’s license, and no right-to-work document, the employer can validly choose not to hire that employee.
Another new employment law taking effect in 2015 adds volunteers and unpaid interns to the list of people who cannot be discriminated against or harassed under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act. The Fair Employment and Housing Act prohibits discrimination against people based on race, religion, sex, age, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, disability, and more. The law previously only protected employees and potential employees, but now protects volunteers and unpaid interns as well.
One other law that has been added provides that companies that employ workers through a temporary agency or another labor contractor can be held liable for wage-and-hour violations. In other words, if a worker is hired through a temporary agency, normally the company pays the temporary agency, and the temporary agency pays the worker and provides the worker with any legal benefits required by law. Prior to this law, if a temporary agency violated wage-and-hour laws and did not properly pay the contract worker, the company using the services of the worker was not liable. Now, the company is liable. Therefore, it is important that companies investigate the staffing agencies they use to make sure that applicable employment laws are being followed.
In addition to the state employment laws taking effect this year, there are a number of local employment laws taking effect. Oakland increased its minimum wage to $12.25 an hour and also now requires its employers to provide paid sick leave to employees. Unfortunately, no matter what employment laws are established to protect employees, many employers refuse to follow them. If you have been the victim of an employer who refuses to follow the law, you should speak to an attorney. Call Micha Star Liberty, Oakland employment law attorney, at 510-645-1000 or 415-896-1000. She will provide you with a free consultation on your case.