Gov. Jerry Brown Signs a Plethora of California Workplace Bills into Law but Vetoes a Major One

By Jason Gabhart Oct 7, 2016
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September 30 marked the deadline for Gov. Jerry Brown (D) to sign into law or veto legislation that the California Legislature sent to his desk during the 2016 session. One significant piece of HR legislation that the governor ultimately vetoed was SB 654, a bill opposed by SHRM and the California State Council of SHRM (CalSHRM). In short, the bill would have expanded the state's parental family leave law (affording six weeks of unpaid leave to bond with a new child within one year of the child's birth, adoption or foster care placement) to employers with 20 or more employees.

In his veto message, Brown echoed identical concerns expressed by SHRM and CalSHRM in a letter urging him to veto the bill. In short, both groups stressed the impact the new leave requirement would have on small businesses and the potential liability that could result. SHRM's lobbying efforts in Sacramento, as part of a large coalition in opposition to the bill, played a key role in guaranteeing that this bill did not become law.

The governor did sign a number of workplace bills that CalSHRM and SHRM monitored throughout the legislative process, however. These include:

  • AB 1063, which expands California's Equal Pay Act to target race- and ethnicity-related wage differentials.
  • AB 1066, which phases out the overtime exemption for agricultural workers.
  • AB 1676, which precludes salary history from justifying gender-based wage differentials.
  • AB 1843, which prohibits hiring-related inquiries concerning juvenile convictions.
  • AB 2337, which requires employers to provide written information regarding leave rights for employees who have been victims of sexual assault or domestic violence.
  • SB 1001, which expands the prohibitions regarding "immigration-related practices."
  • SB 1167, which expands California's heat illness regulations to include indoor employees.
  • SB 1234, which expresses legislative approval of a state-administered retirement program for employees who do not have a private retirement plan through their employers.
  • SB 1241, which prohibits an employment contract from requiring an employee, as a condition of employment, to agree to a provision that would require the employee to adjudicate outside California a dispute arising in California.

The governor also vetoed the following bill:

  • AB 1890, which would have required employers with a state contract amounting to more than $50,000 that either are required by federal regulations to submit a federal nondiscrimination report or that have more than 100 employees in the state to submit their nondiscrimination programs to the Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

There were also several bills that failed to pass the California Legislature this year but are likely to resurface in the next session of the California Legislature that begins in December 2016. Included in this group were bills that would have:

  • Required employers to pay double-time for employees working on Thanksgiving (AB 67).
  • Required employers to provide copies of their Illness and Injury Prevention Programs (AB 2895).
  • Authorized the labor commissioner to commence investigations even if no complaint had been made (AB 2261).
  • Created whistle-blower protections for employees of the Legislature (AB 1788).

Because this was the second year of a two-year session, bills that did not make it to the governor's desk this summer are no longer viable when the new legislative session begins this December. One important HR issue that is likely to appear next session is legislation that allows a California employer to establish a voluntary preference in the hiring of veterans.

CalSHRM and SHRM sponsored a bill on this issue this session, AB 1383, proposed by Assemblyman Brian Jones (R-Santee); however, after making it through the Assembly with unanimous support, it died in a tie vote (3 in favor, 3 opposed and 1 "no vote recorded") in the Democratically-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee in June.

For questions on any piece of California legislation (whether listed in this article or not), please contact Jason Gabhart, SHRM's California state government relations advisor, at Jason.Gabhart@shrm.org or (916) 403-3465. 

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