From coast to coast, as the calendar turned to 2016, a host of new employment laws became effective. States and local government are imposing broad obligations on employers well above what federal law requires. This patchwork of legal requirements will continue to bedevil employers. As you begin implementing your resolutions for 2016, here’s our take on the major changes that went into effect across the nation last week:
As you brace for the New Year, don’t forget that California’s minimum wage will reach $10 per hour on January 1, 2016. This latest increase is the final stage of the two-step legislation that increased the minimum wage from $8 to $9 per hour on July 1, 2014, and now to $10 per hour effective January 1, 2016.
On October 21, 2015, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a group of eight bills, referred to as the Women’s Equality Agenda, which expand protections for women in the workplace and elsewhere in New York State. The changes that will affect New York employers include an expansion of the existing State equal pay law, the addition of familial status as a protected category and the express requirement that employers reasonably accommodate pregnancy-related conditions.
On September 28, 2015, the Ninth Circuit held in Shukri Sakkab v. Luxottica Retail North America, Inc. that the FAA does not preempt the rule that the California Supreme Court enunciated in Iskanian v. CLS Transportation that California law bars the waiver of Private Attorneys General Act (“PAGA”) claims. As a result, California employers will likely see an increase in the filing of PAGA cases as employees use them as a vehicle for representative actions outside of arbitration.
California employers should keep an eye on a new challenge to arbitration provisions on its way to the Governor’s desk. On August 24, 2015, the California Senate passed AB 465, which would make it unlawful for any employer or other company to “require another person to waive any legal right, penalty, remedy, forum, or procedure for a violation of any provision of [the California Labor Code], as a condition of employment, including the right to file and pursue a civil action or complaint with, or otherwise notify, the Labor Commissioner, state agency, other public prosecutor, law enforcement agency, or any court or other governmental entity.” The Senate version eliminates the originally proposed $10,000 per violation penalty, but continues to authorize an award of injunctive relief and attorneys’ fees to a prevailing plaintiff seeking to enforce the section. The Assembly concurred in the Senate’s amendments on August 27, 2015, and the bill will reach the Governor shortly.
The new California paid sick leave law is now “in effect” (as we reported here and here) and you are ramping up your HR and payroll team to get ready for July 1 when employees can start accruing sick leave under the law. But now that you’re digging into the details, you’re realizing that this isn’t as easy as you thought. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. There are a few subtleties to the sick leave law that are catching more than a few employers off guard. But fear not, here are some tips to help you implement your sick leave plan:
Even in the summer months, the California legislature is busy changing the laws that affect the state’s employers. This summer, California’s governor signed into law two bills that should be of interest to all employers—one amending the definition of sexual harassment under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) and the other amending a provision of the California Labor relating to the award of attorneys‘ fees and costs in actions for the non-payment of wages. READ MORE
Many employers systematically round employee time punches to the nearest tenth of an hour. For example, if an employee clocks in at 9:58 a.m., the time is rounded up to 10:00 a.m.; and likewise if she clocks in at 10:02 a.m., her time is rounded down to 10:00 a.m. Under federal law, rounding policies are lawful if they are neutrally applied and do not systematically under compensate employees. While this standard was approved by the California Division of Labor Standards and Enforcement, until recently, no California court or statute specifically addressed the issue.
However, on October 29, 2012, the California Court of Appeal for the Fourth Appellate District in See’s Candy Shops, Inc. v. Superior Court confirmed that the neutral rounding standard adopted by federal law and the Department of Labor Standards and Enforcement is appropriate under California law. Thus, under See’s Candy, California employers may maintain lawful rounding policies if the rounding does not consistently result in a failure to pay employees for time worked. An example of a potentially unlawful rounding policy is one in which the employer always rounds time down.
Also of note, in approving the federal rounding standard, the See’s Candy opinion rejected the plaintiff’s reliance on California Labor Code section 204. Specifically, the court emphasized that Section 204 is solely a timing requirement as to when wages must be paid, and does not create any substantive right to wages.
You can read the decision here.
As the nation awaits the Supreme Court’s opinion on the constitutionality of its individual health insurance mandate, some lesser-known provisions of the “Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act” (a.k.a. “Obamacare”) have received short shrift. For instance, the Affordable Care Act also amended the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and requires employers to provide nursing employees with “a reasonable amount of break time to express milk as frequently as needed” for up to one year after a child’s birth. The law also requires all employers subject to FLSA to provide employees with a private place to express milk that is not a bathroom.
While at first blush, this law sounds rather broad, it contains several limitations: READ MORE