The laws which govern employment in California are complex and constantly changing, a fact that represents a significant challenge for human resource professionals and workers in the golden state. According to the California Chamber of Congress, the legal requirements regarding issues ranging from sexual harassment to worker’s compensation to whistle blowing and employment discrimination “can be difficult for employers large and small to navigate.”
The California Chamber and similar organizations offer online resources to help employees unravel some of the thornier issues surrounding California labor law, but even those resources can be a challenge to use. Adding to the challenge, the state passes new laws every year. It’s important for workers and HR managers to stay on top of these changes in the law, since they will potentially affect their salary, the benefits they receive and issues which impact hiring and firing decisions.
Here are 5 new California employment laws of 2017:
- Minimum wage: California has enacted a schedule of minimum wage increases through 2022, at which time all employers with 26 or more employees must pay at least $15 an hour. This year, the minimum wage increases from $10 to $10.50 for such employees. It then increases to $11 in 2018, and by $1 additional each year until 2022. The minimum wage reaches $15 an hour for employers with 25 or fewer employees in 2023. Some cities have accelerated these increases. For example, San Diego minimum wage workers will be paid $11.50 this year, and in Los Angeles, the minimum wage increases to $12 on July 1 of this year.
- Wage discrimination: existing California law requires that employers pay men and women at the same rate for similar work in the same establishment and requiring similar skills and responsibilities. The new law adds that employers can’t justify a different rate of pay based on a worker’s salary history. For example, if a man and a woman are hired at the same time to perform the same job, an employer can’t pay the woman less because she was paid less in her previous job. Another addition to the wage discrimination law prohibits employers from paying an employee less based on race or ethnicity.
- Legalization of recreational marijuana use: on November 8, Californians voted in favor of Proposition 64 (57% to 43%), which legalized the use of recreational marijuana throughout the state. The new law, however, does not change an employer’s right to prohibit marijuana use in the workplace or on company property.
- Juvenile convictions: employers can no longer ask job candidates about any juvenile convictions, arrests or detentions, and cannot consider such convictions in hiring decisions. The new law took effect on January 1, 2017.
- Protections for immigrants: essentially, the new law limits an employer’s right to verify an employee’s immigration status. For example, employers are not permitted to ask for more documentation that federal law requires. The law also prohibits employers from reinvestigating “an incumbent employee’s authorization to work using an unfair immigration-related practice.” Violations of the new law could prove costly: under the new law, workers who file a successful complaint with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement can recover $10,000 from their employer.
California employment laws are difficult to understand and change from one year to the next. If you feel your rights have been violated and plan to take action, your best bet is to consult an attorney with deep and wide-ranging experience in employment law.
Aiman-Smith & Marcy is a highly-successful, boutique law firm with specific experience in practice areas including consumer fraud, employment and class action suits, and an unwavering commitment to protecting the rights of employees and holding employers to account. To learn more about your rights, or to discuss your case with a lawyer, contact us today.