California workplace law in the coming year will reflect the distinct stamp of 2018's cultural conflagration over women's experience in the workplace, with a series of new laws tackling everything from #MeToo to representation in the boardroom.
New laws going into effect include expanded protections against sexual harassment, an end to secret settlements that allowed accused harassers to extract silence as a condition of settlement and a bold – if legally vulnerable – new law mandating the end of the boys-only boardroom for public companies headquartered or incorporated in California.
Additional Protections and Higher Wages
In keeping with the state's long-standing reputation for expansive workplace protections, new state laws will also broaden family leave benefits to include workers who take time off related to the active military duty of either the employee, a spouse, domestic partner, a parent or a child. Minimum wage is also going up across the state.
Here are a few highlights:
- Board Seats for Women: A new law requires public companies headquartered or incorporated in California to have at least one female member of the board of directors by the end of 2019. By 2021, the law requires additional female representation: Boards with six or more members must have at least three women directors; boards with five members must have at least two women. The law includes a $100,000 fine for a first violation, climbing to $300,000 for additional violations. Some legal experts have expressed doubts as to whether the law can survive a legal challenge however.
- End to Secret Settlements: A new law extends an existing law by adding sexual harassment and sex discrimination cases to the categories of litigation that cannot impose a requirement of secrecy on plaintiffs as part of a settlement agreement.
- Expanded requirement for Sexual Harassment Training: Under current law, employers with at least 50 employees are required to provide a minimum level of sexual harassment training. A new provision that goes into effect on Jan. 1 will expand this requirement to employers with five or more employees, including temporary or seasonal employees.
- Expanded Liability for Harassment: New provisions also make employers potentially liable for unlawful harassment by certain non-employees like volunteers, unpaid interns or job applicants, if the employer knew or should have known, and failed to take appropriate action.
- Employee Access to Records : SB 1252 gives employees the right to receive a copy of their employment records.
- Minimum Wage: Heading into year three of the state's six-year plan to establish a statewide minimum wage of $15 by 2023, the current minimum wage of $10.50 an hour will increase to $11 an hour for businesses with fewer than 25 employees and $12 an hour for businesses with 26 or more employees on Jan. 1. In addition, new minimum wage rates will go into effect in a number of California cities, including Cupertino, San Jose, Los Altos, San Mateo and El Cerrito.
Other new provisions taking effect in 2019 will amend a recent law that restricts inquiries around job applicants' criminal histories to create exceptions for employers legally prohibited from hiring people with certain convictions. The law limits the exception to asking about only the specific relevant offense. There are also new provisions regarding accommodations for women who need to pump breast milk during the work day.
The Right Payroll Partner for a New Year
Keeping up with workplace and labor law in California can be challenging. That's why at SBS Payroll, we are committed to providing our clients with solutions that cover the entire landscape of compensation issues. In addition to comprehensive payroll services, we offer a portfolio of HR services and human capital management (HCM) software that can help streamline a wide variety of workplace challenges from keeping up with new workplace laws to onboarding, benefits and insurance management, ACA reporting and more.
Click on the link below to learn how you can go into the new year with the worry-free support you need to focus on your business.