5 Bills for California Employers to Track in 2017

5 Bills for California Employers to Track in 2017

The California Legislature has introduced several bills so far in the 2017 session that could have a significant impact on the workplace.

"It's expected to be a very eventful year here in California, especially with the way the cards are stacked," said Michael Kalt, an attorney with Wilson Turner Kosmo in San Diego.

Democrats clinched a supermajority in both the state Assembly and Senate for 2017, which means that even if Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown vetoes a bill, the party can override it without Republican support.

Employers aren't going to get a lot of help from the state legislature this year, according to Jennifer Brown Shaw, an attorney with the Shaw Law Group in Sacramento, Calif. "We're seeing more protections for employees and less protections for employers," she added.

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Kalt said he wouldn't be surprised to see bills proposed to counter federal actions, such as President Donald Trump's executive order limiting immigration from certain countries.  

"It is going to be a very interesting year given the dynamics within Sacramento, as well as the seemingly combative stance between Washington, D.C., and Sacramento—and vice versa," Kalt noted.

Here are some of the bills that have already been introduced (or reintroduced) this session.

1. Opportunity to Work

A.B. 5 proposes the Opportunity to Work Act, which would require employers with at least 10 employees to first offer additional work hours to existing nonexempt staff before hiring additional employees or contractors.

The bill is similar to a local law in San Francisco for certain large retailers and one in San Jose that will take effect in March.

2. Pay Equity

A.B. 168 would ban employers from asking job applicants about their salary history. The bill would apply to all employers, including state and local governments. Only private employers, however, would have to provide applicants with the relevant position's pay scale.

There is also a bill (A.B. 46) that would clarify that existing pay equity laws apply to both private and public employers. 

3. Arbitration

S.B. 33 isn't directly related to the workplace but it would impact arbitration agreements. Under the bill, it would be unlawful to require the waiver of a legal right stemming from fraud or identity theft or any other wrongful use of personal identity information as a condition of entering into a contract for goods or services. Among other things, waivers would need to be in writing and not presented as a condition of entering into a contract. 

4. Family Leave

S.B. 62 would allow an employee to take leave to care for more individuals under the California Family Rights Act.

The bill would expand the term "child" to include a domestic partner's children and would remove restrictions based on age and dependent status. It would also permit employees to take leave to care for a grandparent, grandchild, sibling or domestic partner with a serious health condition. Additionally, the definition of "parent" would be revised to include a parent-in-law.

5. Parental Leave

Under S.B. 63, employers with 20-49 employees in a 75-mile radius would have to provide eligible male and female employees with up to 12 weeks of job-protected baby-bonding leave. The existing law applies to businesses with 50 or more workers.

More to Come

"We're still a few weeks away from the deadline for bills to be introduced, so it's a 'stay tuned' situation," Kalt said.

The California Legislature has until Feb. 17 to introduce new bills.

Shaw noted that it's common for state lawmakers to wait until the last minute to introduce legislation.

Although some cities in California have enacted ban-the-box laws for private employers, the current state law applies only to public employers. It's possible that a statewide ban-the-box bill could be introduced that would apply to the private sector.

Kalt said he wouldn't be surprised if predictable scheduling came up again. San Francisco has a predictable scheduling ordinance, but a statewide law that was introduced last year stalled.

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