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Quick Guide: New California Employment Laws

New Employment Laws for the New Year An update on California laws for 2016 By Stephenie Alexander

Leave of Absence Laws AB 304 - Mandatory Paid Sick Leave Amendment The “Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014,” implemented in July 2015, requires employers to provide all California employees with three days (or 24 hours), whichever is greater, of paid sick leave per year. Shortly after implementation, the California legislature passed an amendment which allows employers alternative options with respect to the accrual of sick leave. The amendment also clarifies certain issues such as the reporting of unlimited paid sick leave on wage statements, the validity of existing leave banks prior to the implementation of the Paid Sick Leave law, and the calculation methods of an employee’s rate of pay. AB 304 was signed into law on July 13, 2015, as an emergency statute. AB 579 – Expansion of the Definition of “School Activities Leave” and Kin Care Pursuant to Labor Code Section 230.8, employers with 25 or more employees must permit an employee to take up to 40 hours per year for School Activities for one or more children enrolled in kindergarten, Grades 1 through 12 or under the supervision of a licensed child care provider. SB 579 expands the definition of “school related activities” to include the enrollment of a child in school or licensed care provider (including for purposes of seeking a school and re-enrollment). “School related activities” also includes any emergency requests from the school that a parent pick up their child due to behavioral issues, sudden closures or natural disasters. Eligible employees now include stepparents, foster parents and employees who stand in loco parentis to a child. SB 579 also harmonizes the inconsistencies between an employee’s use of sick leave between Kin Care and Paid Sick Leave laws. The

amendment clarifies an employee’s ability to use sick leave under Kin Care laws for the same purposes and for the same family members as provided under California’s Paid Sick Leave law. AB 583 – Expansion of National Guard Leave Protections Under existing law, members of the National Guard that have been ordered into active state or federal service are provided with protected leave. This means members are entitled to the same or similar position, pay and status upon return unless the employer can establish that the employee’s reinstatement will cause the employer to suffer undue hardship. AB 583 extends the law’s protections to California employees serving in the National Guard of other states.

Discrimination, Harassment and Retaliation Laws SB 358 – Amendment to California’s Fair Pay Act Previously, California’s Fair Pay Act required that an employee establish that he or she was not being paid the same rate of compensation as his or her counterpart of the opposite sex at the same establishment performing the exact same work or “equal work.” Through this amendment, the California legislature diminishes the employee’s burden in seeking relief under the Act by providing that the employee need only show that he or she is not being paid for “substantially similar work.” The employee does not have to have the exact job as the employee of the opposite sex, nor does the employee counterpart have to be in the exact same location as the aggrieved employee. Once the aggrieved employee has made a prima facie showing that he or she was not paid the same rate of compensation as someone of the opposite sex for substantially similar work, the burden shifts to the employer to show that the decision is tied to a business necessity, which may include a seniority system, merit based system, or other bona fide factor. Reliance on any of the business necessity factors must constitute the sole reason for any discrepancy in the rates of pay.

January/February 2016 SAN DIEGO LAWYER 39

San Diego Lawyer January/February 2016  

Inside this Issue: Career Pathways for Attorneys; Modern Mediation; New Employment Laws