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California Governor Brown Signs New Laws Impacting Employees and Employers

On Behalf of | Oct 15, 2013 | in Courts, Employment Updates, Family Leave, Minimum Wage

Minimum Wage Increase

Governor Jerry Brown has signed into law a measure that will increase California’s minimum wage from $8.00 per hour to $9.00 per hour on July 1, 2014, and to $10.00 per hour on January 1, 2016. So, California employers must prepare for a 25% increase in the minimum wage over the next two years.The California Chamber of Commerce lists the new law among its biggest “job killers,” while supporters argue that this is the first increase to California’s minimum wage since 2008.  California currently has the eighth highest minimum wage – and the fifth highest rate of unemployment at 8.9% – in the country. The increase to $9.00 per hour and then to $10.00 will likely bring California to the very top of the list, unless other states follow suit.  The cost of living in California is very high and the service industry – who also enjoy tipped pay – will benefit and be hit the hardest with this new law – depending on your role in the equation.

Paid Family Leave Expansion

Governor Brown also signed Senate Bill 770, which expands California employees’ eligibility for paid family leave.  Previously, the California Family Rights Act permitted eligible workers to take paid leave to care for seriously ill spouses, domestic partners, children and parents.  Under the new law, eligible employees are also allowed paid leave to care for siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, and parents-in-law.  Small business need to pay close attention to ensure compliance with this statute.

Overtime for Domestic Workers

In a development that affects even the smallest of California employers, the Governor signed another bill mandating overtime pay for domestic workers.  The new law requires that employers pay their domestic employees time and a half for each hour worked beyond nine hours in one day or 45 hours in one week.  The law applies to all employees engaged in “domestic work,” including nannies, housekeepers, and those who provide care for people with disabilities.  However, the law contains a babysitter exemption for workers who care for a child on an intermittent basis.  Not sure why babysitters were exempted as most teenagers demand overtime after eight (8) hours a night of babysitting.

Employment Discrimination Based on Stalking

On Friday, October 11, 2013, Gov. Brown signed a law that bars employment discrimination against victims of domestic violence and those who experience stalking or sexual assault by amending California Labor Code § 230.

The new law, which will take effect on January 1, 2014 makes it unlawful for an employer to fire or otherwise discriminate against a worker based on the fact that he or she is a victim. It also entitles victims to “reasonable” safety accommodations in the workplace, such as changing a work telephone number, relocating a desk, or implementing a workplace safety plan. Existing law protected employees who were victims of domestic violence and this amendment of Labor Code § 230 would extend the law to cover stalking.  The bill does provide that “This subdivision does not require the employer to undertake an action that constitutes an undue hardship on the employer’s business operations, as defined by Section 12926 of the Government Code. For the purposes of this subdivision, an undue hardship also includes an action that would violate an employer’s duty to furnish and maintain a place of employment that is safe and healthful for all employees as required by Section 6400 of the Labor Code.”

It will be hard to imagine how a small employer could accommodate – reading the bill “protect” an employee who has been threatened with violence when law enforcement has been unable to assist. Doe the employer have a duty to arm themselves and the victim? Install metal gates? Does the employer have a duty to notify co-workers? It would seem they do as the competing duties of Labor Code § 6400 require an employer to maintain a safe work environment. A stalker or abuser could gain access to the victim via friends or co-workers unless they were warned. Would privacy issues be impugned?   Should the employer inquire about the status of the relationship if no charges are filed or if the couple reconciles?  Only time and case law will tell.

The bill was introduced in California after Carie Charlesworth, a teacher in the state, was fired when her abusive husband invaded her school’s parking lot and put the school on lockdown. Charlesworth testified about the bill when it was being considered, saying, “Victims should not have to continue suffering in silence due to the fear they have of losing their jobs,” pointing out that they “need to be able to speak up about what is happening so they can get the help they need to leave their abusive situation.”  What about the School District and Ms. Charlesworth’s co-workers and especially the students?   It would appear with Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting – district’s should do everything they can to prevent this type of issue. The school that did not renew Ms. Charlesworth’s teaching contract the following year cited “the protection and safety of children will be understood as the only path the school could have taken.”

California joins just six other states — Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, New York, Oregon, and Rhode Island — in having protections for victims on the books.  Economic constraints only serve to exacerbate abuse and California is hoping to address these issues with this new statue.

If you have questions about how these laws impact you at work or an employers’ obligations, please contact Richard Quintilone II, Esq. at  and for espanol Fernando Guzman [email protected]  or Quintilone & Associates at 949-458-9675.

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