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New California Labor Laws In 2016

Posted December 2015 by S. Ward Heinrichs
New California Labor Laws In 2016

Minimum wage increase
The minimum wage in California will increase to $10 per hour. The law that made that change was actually passed in 2013. It caused the minimum wage to rise from $8 per hour to $9 per hour on July 1, 2014. The final increase from that law will happen on January 1, 2016. A few cities in California have higher minimum wage rates, but, no matter where you live in California, as of January 1, 2016, all employees will make at least $10 per hour.

Gender Pay Equality
California has had gender equality pay under Labor Code §1197.5 since 1949, however the law will become more employee friendly in 2016. First, the law will allow an employee to file suit if the employee believes that the employer retaliated against the employee for making a claim of unequal pay. Second, the law no longer requires that pay inequality happen in the same establishment and does not require that the employee be compared to opposite sex employees who engage in “equal work”. Rather, an employee can make a claim for unequal pay when opposite sex employees get paid for “substantially similar work, when viewed as a composite of skill, effort, and responsibility.” Presumably, that new standard will make it easier to make equal pay claims. Finally, the employers have more specific requirements to show that unequal pay is not based on sex but is a true “business necessity.”

Protection for family members of whistle blowers
Whistle blowers have protection from adverse employment actions, but now their family members do too. If family members work for the same employer, and one family member blows the whistle on that employer, the employer may not retaliate against the non-complaining family member. Additionally, an employee may now file claims of whistle blower retaliation against employers who contract for labor.

Asking for a disability or religious accommodation is protected activity
The court in Rope v. Auto-Clor System of Washington, Inc., (2013) 220 Cal.App.4th 635 found that merely asking for a disability or religious accommodation is not protected activity. The legislature made clear in a new law that asking for such accommodations is protected activity and that retaliation is illegal.

Employers have the right to cure minor pay stub violations
Recently, employers have faced huge penalties for not putting accurate pay period dates and employer addresses on pay stubs. The governor signed emergency legislation that gave the employer the right to “cure” those inaccuracies before an employee can file an expensive lawsuit. Those changes became effective on October 2, 2015.

Motor carriers can avoid misclassification lawsuits if the reclassify within a year
Motor carriers who are “port transportation companies” have faced many class action lawsuits for misclassification of their drivers as independent contractors. The new law gives them until January 1, 2017 to reclassify their drivers as employees through a settlement with the Labor Commissioner. If they do so, they will avoid liability.

Potential Safe Harbor for employers who failed to pay piece rate employees for rest and recovery periods and unproductive time
Piece rate workers must be paid for all time at work. Sometimes, employers only pay the workers piece rate and do not specifically pay them for rest periods or unproductive time, such as driving between jobs. The new law grants such employers an affirmative defense if they pay the employees for unpaid rest periods and unproductive time for all unpaid time from July 1, 2012 through December 31, 2015. The employer must also pay accrued interest and inform the Department of Industrial Relations that it will pay all the employees for unpaid rest and recovery periods and unproductive time no later than July 1, 2016.

Uber must now provide the DMV with driver information to allow investigation or driving records
Until now, ride-sharing services did not necessarily need to participate in the DMV’s pull-notice system. Now, Uber and other ride-share services must identify who their drivers are, whether they are employees or independent contractors. This gives the DMV the ability to review the records of those drivers to check for unsafe driving, such as accidents, suspensions, DUI’s, etc.

S. Ward Heinrichs, Esq.
Employment Law Office of Ward Heinrichs
4565 Ruffner Street, Suite 207
San Diego, CA 92111
(858) 408-7543 (fax)

Employment Law Office of WARD HEINRICHS

4565 Ruffner St. Suite 207 San Diego 92111


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