The New Year is almost here, which means changes to California’s employment laws and, consequently, to the way our state’s employers operate their day-to-day business. Below, we summarize six laws that take effect in 2017 and one that goes into effect in 2018. Please feel free to contact one of our employment lawyers if you need further guidance on any of these changes.

(1) Gender and Ethnicity Wage Equality

Two new bills will expand California’s Fair Pay Act in 2017. SB 1063 extends the Fair Pay Act’s requirements of gender wage equality to race/ethnicity, prohibiting employers from paying any of its employees lower wage rates than the rates paid to employees of a different race/ethnicity. AB 1676 states that, under the Fair Pay Act, an employee’s prior salary alone cannot justify any disparity in compensation. Also, employers may not use prior salary as a factor in their hiring decisions.  This law attempts to address “widespread, long-standing, gender-based wage disparities in the labor market.”

(2) Choice of Forum and Law in Employment Disputes

Employers generally will no longer be able to require California employees as a condition of employment to adjudicate employment disputes outside of California.  Additionally, employers may not require application of another state’s law to an in-state dispute, thereby depriving employees of the protections of California law.  This new law applies to all employment contracts entered into, modified, or extended on or after January 1, 2017.  The law’s sole exception applies when an employee is individually represented by legal counsel in negotiating the agreement’s terms which designate either the forum or the choice of law to be applied.

(3)  Minimum Wage Increase

Beginning on January 1, 2017, businesses with 26 or more employees must pay a minimum wage of $10.50 per hour, increasing to $15 by 2022. Small businesses with 25 or fewer employees are not required to increase their minimum wage until 2018. This statewide minimum wage hike, adjusted for inflation, is the highest in U.S. history. When fully implemented, the wage increase is expected to impact one-third of California employees.

(4)  All-Gender Restrooms

As of March 1, 2017, all single-user toilet facilities in any business establishment, place of public accommodation, or state or local government agency must be identified by signage as all-gender toilet facilities, and designated for use by no more than one occupant at a time or for family or assisted use. The law defines “single-user toilet facility” as one “with no more than one water closet and one urinal with a locking mechanism controlled by the user.” This much-publicized law is intended to advance the rights and safety of transgender individuals. To comply, employers need only change their restroom signage.

(5)  Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, and Stalking Protections

Employers with 25 or more employees must now provide employees with written notice (a form) about the rights of victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking to take protected time off for medical treatment or legal proceedings. However, employers are not required to comply with the law until the Labor Commissioner posts the required form on its website on or before July 1, 2017.

(6)  Juvenile Criminal History Information

New legislation prohibits employers from inquiring into any “adjudication” (i.e., a final determination) made by a juvenile court on crimes for which an applicant was accused. These crimes include murder, arson, rape, kidnapping, and discharge of a firearm. Further, employers may not use juvenile adjudications as a factor in the hiring process. However, the law does allow healthcare facilities to inquire into juvenile adjudications for felony or misdemeanor sexual offenses or drug possessions within the past five years.

(7)  Paid Family Leave Benefits

Beginning January 1, 2018, a new law will increase paid family leave (PFL) benefits from 55% to 60-70% of an employee’s earnings, depending on income.  Employees earning close to minimum wage will be paid 70% of their salary during their leave, while those earning up to $108,000 annually will receive 60%.  The law will also eliminate the seven-day waiting period before an employee is eligible to receive PFL benefits.  As is currently the case, employers do not pay the PFL.  Rather, PFL is a state-administered program funded through worker contributions to the State Disability Insurance (SDI) program.

Keesal, Young & Logan Employment Group

This information has been prepared by Keesal, Young & Logan for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. Transmission of the information is not intended to create, and receipt does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship between you and Keesal, Young & Logan. You should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.