Employers in California need to be ready for labor law changes in 2015

As the new year begins, a number of new labor laws are taking effect in California that will significantly impact employer responsibility.

Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. signed the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014 into law last September, requiring most California companies to provide employees with paid sick leave every year beginning in July 2015.

“Any employee who works at least 30 days of the year in the state must be provided paid sick leave under this new law — up to three days a year,” says Ron Filice, president and CEO at Filice Insurance. “California is the only state in the country to enact such a law, so employers are understandably unsure of what will be required of them and how it will impact their business.”

The bill specifically requires employers to provide paid sick leave to employees who work more than 30 days within a year from commencement of employment. Employees will earn a minimum of one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked.

The intent of the law is to help roughly 6.5 million workers in the state who cannot take a paid day off when they are ill or a family member is sick. That equals about 40 percent of California’s workforce of 18.8 million civilian workers, according to the California Employment Development Department.

Smart Business spoke with Filice about these labor law changes and what employers need to know to be compliant.

How can employers best respond to the new sick leave requirements?

There are a few things employers need to prepare for now.

First, the law sets out specific guidelines surrounding the accrual rate of paid sick leave, as well as usage and carryover limits. Therefore, employers must be meticulous about how their policy will be crafted and communicated to employees.

Second, employers that already have a sick leave or similar paid time-off policy in place for full-time employees will need to consider how best to expand their existing policies in order to include part-time and temporary employees, as well.

Finally, all employers need to be aware of some new communication pieces that are required under the law. New sick leave workplace posters should be posted now, and wage notices that reflect the amount of sick leave available to each employee will need to be provided starting in July.

What are some other developments employers need to be aware of this year?

A new section was added to the state labor code that makes employers that utilize staffing agencies jointly liable for violations by the agency in connection with the payment of wages, workers compensation, and occupational health and safety requirements.

This applies to employers with 25 or more workers where at least five of the workers are from a staffing agency.

Also of note are some developments in state anti-discrimination and harassment laws. Protections previously applicable to employees were expanded to also include interns and volunteers in the workplace. Additionally, anti-harassment training required for supervisors must now include education on “abusive conduct.”

Employers should carefully review workplace policies and communication materials in order to ensure compliance with these changes in the law.

In addition, a new law went into effect on Jan. 1 that pertains to the way companies treat undocumented persons.

Beginning in 2015, the state is issuing driver’s licenses to undocumented persons who can submit proof of California residency.

To coincide with this new development, Assembly Bill 1660 makes it a violation of the state’s Fair Employment and Housing Act for an employer to discriminate against an individual because he or she holds or presents a driver’s license issued to an undocumented person.

The law specifically provides that ‘national origin’ discrimination includes discrimination on the basis of possessing such a driver’s license.

An important clarification for employers to note is that actions taken in order to comply with federal I-9 verification requirements do not violate California law. ●

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