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Counsel's Corner: Key Employment Laws for 2019

Published Wednesday, November 28, 2018
by Gail Cecchettini Whaley, Esq.

Governor Brown signed a number of new employment-related laws that will take effect on January 1, 2019. These new laws, as always, will require employers to take a close look at their existing policies and procedures.

This year, the #MeToo movement had a significant impact on California legislation with a number of new laws relating to harassment in the workplace. Several other new laws will also impact areas such as lactation accommodation and hiring practices. Some new employment laws are industry-specific or limited in scope.

Let’s gear up for 2019 by looking at a few of these new laws! You can see all of the new employment-related laws in our Comprehensive Guide under our additional resources tab on our website.

Harassment Prevention Training (SB 1343). This important new law requires employers with 5 or more employees to provide 2 hours of sexual harassment prevention training to all supervisory employees, and at least 1 hour of sexual harassment prevention training to all nonsupervisory employees by January 1, 2020.

New requirements for training temporary and seasonal employees are also included.

For more information on the mandatory training requirement, read our breakdown of the SB 1343. For ways to complete your training, check out our upcoming webinars or give us a call at 800-399-5331 about an onsite session. 

Tightening Rules Relating to Sexual Harassment (SB 1300). This new legislation makes several changes to California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) to address workplace harassment:

• Prohibits employers from requiring employees to release a FEHA claim in exchange for a raise or a bonus, or as a condition of employment or continued employment (also applies to non-disparagement agreements).
• Permits employers to provide “bystander intervention training” (optional, not required).
• Expands an employer’s FEHA liability for acts of nonemployees to all forms of unlawful harassment (not just sexual).
• Make several declarations of legislative intent that may make it easier for employees to win sexual harassment lawsuits (such as statements that harassment cases are rarely appropriate for dismissal before trial).

Defamation Protections (AB 2770). This new law protects employers and victims of harassment from claims of defamation relating to sexual harassment allegations. For instance, communications between the employer and interested persons (such as witnesses or victims) about the sexual harassment allegations are protected—if made without malice. This allows you to conduct your good faith investigations without fear of being sued for defamation.

In addition, non-malicious statements made to prospective employers regarding whether a decision not to re-hire is based on an employer’s determination that the employee engaged in sexual harassment are protected.

Women on Boards (SB 826). Requires mandatory inclusion of women on publicly held boards. Each publicly-held domestic or foreign corporation with principal executive offices located in California must have a minimum of 1 woman on its board of directors by the end of 2019.

By the end of 2021, up to 3 female directors are required, depending on the board’s size: 6 or more directors = a minimum of 3 female directors; 5 directors = 2 female directors; 4 or fewer directors = one female director. There are substantial financial penalties for failure to comply.

Lactation Accommodation (AB 1976). Provides that a lactation room must be “other than a bathroom”—current law states that the location must be other than a “toilet stall.” Permanent locations are generally required, but the law allows for temporary lactation locations under certain circumstances as long as specific conditions are met.

Also, allows an employer to request a hardship exemption under certain conditions.

Prior Salary (AB 2282). One of the most difficult employment law changes for California employers in 2018 was Labor Code section 432.3 which prohibits employers from asking job applicants for salary history information and requires them to provide applicants with the pay scale for a position upon reasonable request.

Fortunately, the law was amended to provide key clarifications effective January 1, 2019, including defining the terms “pay scale” and “reasonable request,” allowing employers to ask for “salary expectations,” and determining whether existing employees are covered by the prohibition (they’re not).

For more information, see 2019 Relief for Employers on Salary History Ban.

Payroll Records (SB 1252). Current law allows employees the right to inspect and copy their payroll records. This new law provides that when an employee asserts his or her right to inspect and copy payroll records, the employer is required to make the copies (as opposed to requiring the employee go in and copy the records themselves).

Get Ready

Soar to Success by signing up for one of our 2019 Labor Law Update Seminars. With 13 different seminars up and down the State of California, you are sure to find one that meets your needs. We can also help you meet your Harassment Prevention Training needs in 2019 so that you can comply with the new mandate.

Also, don’t forget to check out our Comprehensive Guide on new California Employment Laws under our additional resources tab.

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