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Taking the Minimum to the Max: California to Increase Minimum Wage to $15.00-November-2016

For better or worse, the year 2016 is almost over. So that means, just like last year, there are some new labor and employment laws on the horizon. Some have a narrow scope, affecting only a select few employers. Others affect nearly everyone. Here's a brief rundown of some important new laws for 2017.

California's Fair Pay Act - In 2017, California's already exacting equal pay law is expanding beyond gender to include ethnicity and race (SB 1007 and 1241). The law now prohibits employers from paying employees of one race or ethnicity less than similarly situated employees of a different race or ethnicity.

New "All Gender" bathroom rule - Beginning March 1, 2017, all businesses are prohibited from labeling any "single-user toilet facility" as either "male" or "female" (AB 1732). The law defines a "single-user toilet facility" as "a toilet facility with no more than one water closet and one urinal with a locking mechanism controlled by the user."

Arbitration provisions - Many employers require their employees to sign arbitration provisions, meaning any employment disputes are resolved through arbitration proceedings and opposed to civil court. Judges are getting stricter on these provisions, often striking them down and allowing employees to proceed with their claims in the court system. A new law (SB 1241) now states that employers cannot require California employees to arbitrate (or litigate) their claims in other states. The law also prohibits requiring arbitrators to apply laws from other states.

Domestic violence leave notice requirements - Under this new law (AB 2377), any company with 25 or employees is required to notify their employees of their rights to take time off (protected) for domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking. Employers must "inform each employee of his or her rights" upon hire and at any time thereafter upon request. The Labor Board will create a form for this type of leave and make it available by July 1, 2017.

Juvenile convictions - A new law (AB 1843) prohibits employers from asking applicants or employees, or even considering information relating to, arrests, convictions, or other similar proceedings that occurred while the applicant or employee was subject to the "jurisdiction of juvenile court law."

Increase in minimum wage - On January 1, 2017, the minimum wage for companies with 26 or more employees will increase to $10.50 per hour.

Smoking law changes - California already has strict prohibitions against smoking at work. Numerous new laws make the requirements even stricter. Prior smoke-free workplace laws did not cover employers with five or fewer employees; the new laws do. Also, employers used to be able to permit smoking in company break-rooms; not anymore. Finally, old laws didn't cover places like hotel lobbies, banquet rooms, bars/taverns and warehouses. The new laws eliminate these exceptions and cover virtually all employers.

Change appears to be the only constant in California employment law. Keeping up to date with the ever-changing legal landscape isn't always easy, but it is important. See you next year with a whole new slate of laws.

This article is for education and information purposes only; it should not be construed as legal advice. If you have an employment law question for inclusion in a future article, contact Brett T. Abbott at Gubler & Abbott LLP (bta@thecalifornialawyers.com). For specific employment law advice or other legal assistance, contact Gubler & Abbott LLP, (559) 625-9600, 1110 N. Chinowith St., Visalia, CA 93291 (www.thecalifornialawyers.com). Read Mr. Abbott's blog on employment law issues at http://work-law.blogspot.com.

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