laborlaw-300x200Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. has now signed or vetoed employment-related legislation passed by the California Legislature in 2016. This year, the governor’s deadline for signing bills was September 30. Governor Brown did not act on many of the bills until the final day of the deadline.

As usual, labor matters were among the hardest fought issues on CalChamber’s agenda. Governor Brown made an indexed minimum wage increase a top priority earlier this year, in part to short-circuit labor-sponsored ballot initiatives. On the other hand, CalChamber enjoyed some significant successes.

CalChamber stopped 20 of 24 bills this year identified as job killers. Most of the bills were stopped during the legislative process, either in committee, killed on the floors of either house or amended to remove the worst provisions that earned the job killer tag. Nonetheless, five job killers made it to the Governor’s desk; he vetoed one.

CalChamber stopped a number of harmful labor-related proposals, including double pay on Thanksgiving, mandated scheduling practices, limits on the use of arbitration agreements and random workplace investigations. Overall, this legislative session was a mixed bag of wins and losses for both the business community and labor.

New Laws

A few of the new laws that employers need to be aware of include:

  • Increases to the state minimum wage. The minimum wage rate will increase incrementally to $15 per hour by 2022 (2023 for smaller employers). (Nonmembers can access the minimum wage white paper here.)
  • A new law prohibiting employers from inquiring into an applicant’s juvenile convictions or using such convictions as a factor in any condition of employment.
  • Expansion of equal pay rules (Fair Pay Act) to prohibit an employer from paying any of its employees at wage rates less than the rates paid to employees of another race or ethnicity for substantially similar work and to specify that prior salary cannot, by itself, justify any disparity in compensation.
  • Overtime pay for agricultural employees, beginning in 2019.
  • Heat illness rules for indoor workplaces by 2019.

Other new laws will also affect California businesses. CalChamber employment law experts will cover the new employment laws for 2017 in the October 13 issue of our HRCalifornia Extra newsletter (subscribe to HRCalifornia Extra) and in our annual new laws whitepaper.

Job Killer Veto

In addition, the governor vetoed SB 654 (Jackson; D-Santa Barbara), a CalChamber job killer bill that would have increased costs and burdens on small business employers in the state.

“We are grateful the governor recognized that this bill would have hurt small business in California and made it even more difficult for them to manage their workforce,” said CalChamber President and CEO Allan Zaremberg.

SB 654 would have created a new protected leave of absence for employers with as few as 20 employees. California already requires employers with five or more employees to provide up to four months of protected leave for an employee who suffers a medical disability because of pregnancy. SB 654 would have added another six weeks of leave for the same employee, totaling more than five months of protected leave. The bill also would have exposed small employers to costly litigation.

Currently, California is one of the nation’s most family-friendly states, given the list of programs and protected leaves of absences available to employees. California provides paid sick days, school activities leave, kin care, pregnancy disability leave, protections under the California Family Rights Act and the paid family leave program. This list is in addition to the leaves of absence required at the federal level.

Governor Brown agreed with CalChamber’s concerns, writing in his veto message:

“It goes without saying that allowing new parents to bond with a child is very important and the state has a number of paid and unpaid benefit programs to provide for that leave. I am concerned, however, about the impact of this leave particularly on small businesses and the potential liability that could result.”

Gail Cecchettini Whaley, CalChamber Employment Law Counsel/Content

Content Courtesy of CalChamber.