2017 Workplace-Related Laws Every Employer Should Know

With the new year comes new employment laws. Although by no means all inclusive, the following summarizes new bills that mark significant changes for California employers in 2017.  Unless otherwise noted, each law has an effective date of January 1, 2017.

AB 1884 – Juvenile Criminal History. The new law prohibits employers from asking or taking into consideration juvenile convictions.  Employers may not ask an applicant to disclose information concerning or related to an arrest, detention, processing, diversion, supervision, adjudication, or court disposition that occurred while the person was subject to the process and jurisdiction of juvenile court law.

AB 1676 – Wage Discrimination.  In January 2016, the California Fair Pay Act became law, creating new gender pay equity protections. This bill expands the Fair Pay Act and establishes that an employee’s prior salary cannot, by itself, justify any disparity in compensation.  It is important to note the bill was modified to take out language that would have prohibited employers from obtaining an applicant’s prior salary.

AB 1063 – Wage Differential – Fair Pay Act Expanded to Protect Race and Ethnicity.  The new Wage and Equality Act also extends California’s Fair Pay Act protections to race and ethnicity.  This law expands the prohibition of a wage differential based on an employee’s race or ethnicity for substantially similar work.

SB 1001– Immigration Documents. This new law will make it an “unfair immigration-related practice” to do any of the following in the course of verifying authorization to work: (1) request more or different documents than required under federal law to verify work authorization (the I-9 process); (2) refuse to honor documents tendered that on their face reasonably appear to be genuine; (3) refuse to honor documents or work authorization based on the specific status or term that accompanies the authorization to work; or (4) attempt to reinvestigate or re-verify an incumbent employee’s work authorization using an unfair immigration-related practice.  Individuals who suffer an unfair immigration-related practice can file a complaint with the DLSE for enforcement, and violations carry a penalty of up to $10,000.

SB 1241 – Arbitration Agreements Venue and Choice of Law. This law restricts employers from requiring employees who primarily reside and work in California to adjudicate claims outside of California when the claim arose in California, or deprive employees of California law with respect of claims arising in California.  Employers should carefully review their arbitration agreements with California employees to ensure that the agreement does not have a choice of law provision that applies another state’s law to the agreement or require any claims be adjudicated outside of California.

SB 1234 – Private Pension.  This law enacts the California Secure Choice Retirement Savings Trust Act, which would create the California Secure Choice Retirement Savings Trust. It applies to private sector employers with five or more employees, that do not offer an employer-sponsored retirement plan. Employers will now be required to offer either an employer-sponsored retirement plan or a payroll deposit retirement savings arrangement so that eligible employees can contribute a portion of their salary or wages to a retirement savings program account in the California Secure Choice Retirement Savings Program. Each eligible employee shall be enrolled in the program unless the employee elects not to participate.

AB 1732 – Single-user Restrooms must be “All Gender”.  The law states that single-occupancy restroom facilities in any business establishment must be identified with signage as “all gender” facilities, rather than designated as male or female.  A single-user restroom is a toilet facility with no more than one water closet and one urinal with a locking mechanism that is controlled by the user.  Effective March 1, 2017.

AB 2337– Notice: Domestic Violence Protection. Employers with 25 or more employees must provide written notice to new employees, and to current employees upon request, of the time off and accommodation rights protecting victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking.  The Labor Commissioner, no later than July 1, 2017, must develop a model notice that employers can use, and employers will not be required to comply until this sample is available.

Significance

Employers should consider the following action steps:

  1. Update employee handbooks and all employment documents for compliance with all new laws for 2017.
  2. Train managers on new employment laws as this impacts staffing and management practices.
  3. Expand pay equity audits to include review of wage disparities based on race and ethnicity, in addition to gender.
  4. Ensure that prior salary is not relied upon to justify gender pay disparities.  Employers should also consider eliminating from the application and hiring process questions seeking an applicant’s prior salary history.
  5. Review employment contracts that are required as a condition of employment for employees who live and work in California. Provisions that require adjudication (litigation or arbitration) outside of California or application of non-California law should be removed, unless the employee is independently represented by counsel in the negotiation of such provisions.
  6. Prepare to notify applicants, as well as current employees upon request, of rights to time off and reasonable accommodations for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking.
  7. Update employment application forms and all hiring processes to eliminate questions that may request juvenile criminal history.
  8. Review I-9 work authorization procedures to ensure they are being carefully followed in all hiring and reverification situations, to avoid “unfair immigration-related practice” violations.
  9. Install signage at all single-occupancy restrooms to indicate that they are “all gender.”

Brandi Gordon, SPHR – Senior HR Consultant

Disclaimer: Some information contained herein has been abridged from numerous sources and may be protected by various copyright laws. Such information should not be construed as consulting or legal advice. Please contact our office for specific advice and/or referrals.

Bay Area Human Resources Services

The Challenge of Unplugging from Work

Technology is rapidly making many features of life faster and more efficient. Thanks to the rise of smartphones work is more convenient, but is also omnipresent.  This is the dark underside of technology for workers that is not often talked about – exempt employees, managers and executives are finding it harder and harder to unplug from work.  The emails and texts never stop. For many workers, if you do not deal with email in some sort of organized way you become buried, less efficient, and viewed as “unresponsive” by your coworkers.

According to a recent article written by Susanna Schrobsdorff in Time Magazine, many employers are seeking ways to encourage, if not mandate, that workers take a break from their devices.  In Europe for example, Daimler offers it staff software that autodeletes employee email while people are on vacation.  Volkswagen stops mobile email thirty minutes after quitting time until thirty minutes before starting time.

While these measures may sound extreme, a study from Colorado State University found that employees are rendered “emotionally exhausted simply by having to think about answering emails while off work”.  Another study suggested by eliminating the number of times each day employees check email, from 10 or 20 down to 3 or 4, increases overall productivity and reduces stress.

The real problem is that the lines between personal and professional are blurred for many knowledge workers.  Personal emails are mixed in with business emails and to stop looking at emails means the possibility of offending friends and loved ones as well as colleagues.  Many wish they were more organized and had a way of sifting through important emails, since the multitude of emails on which a typical knowledge worker is copied turn out to be largely unnecessary.

Time off is declining

To compound matters, in 2015 U.S. workers took an average of just 16 days off as opposed to the 20 days taken in the late 1990’s.  Some people contented that the workplace social norm is the culprit, as it is common for there to be an expectation of tight deadlines and prompt response times, lest clients and managers become upset.

Many employers have sought to address this issue – often termed “work-life balance”, by implementing flexible work hours.  Unfortunately, catching the soccer game, eating with your kids, putting them to bed, and then working until midnight or 1:00a can turn into some unhealthy stress over time.

Other employers have tried to mandate rules on off-hours email traffic only to have them fade away under the tsunami of work.

Significance

You do not have to be a university researcher to notice that the way we work is changing rapidly.  Key knowledge workers are more important today than they ever were and will be more important tomorrow – particularly with the increase in technology and the need to understand its implications.  No real break from work can become a negative morale and even a health issue. Employers need to become more vigilant about helping their employees and their mangers strike a genuine, mutually beneficial, balance on this important issue.

Paul Finkle, CMC, SPHR – Executive Vice President

Disclaimer: Some information contained herein has been abridged from numerous sources and may be protected by various copyright laws. Such information should not be construed as consulting or legal advice. Please contact our office for specific advice and/or referrals.

Bay Area Human Resources Services