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Changes to California Employment Laws in 2012

The California state legislature passed a number of bills in 2011 that will have a large impact on how business owners operate regarding employment. Many of the laws more fully articulate employees’ rights in areas such as discrimination and medical leave time. Some create new protections for employees regarding wage information and health insurance. Employees and employers should both be aware of some of the changes the news laws implement.

Notice to Employees

One of the new laws that will impact the greatest number of employers is AB 469, which requires employers provide a form to non-exempt employees at the time of hire giving notice of:

  • The employee’s rate of pay and whether it’s hourly, salary or commission-based
  • Allowances claimed as part of the minimum wage such as meal and lodging allowances
  • The payday schedule
  • The employer’s name, address and phone number
  • The name, address and phone number of the workers’ compensation insurer

If the information changes, the employer needs to notify employees within seven days. AB 469 also increases penalties against employers for wage violations.

Health Coverage

SB 299 requires employers with five or more employees to allow mothers who go on maternity leave to maintain their benefits for up to four months at the same rate as if the mothers had been working. Previously, only businesses with 50 or more employees needed to maintain medical benefits for women on maternity leave at the same rate as if they had been working, and only for 12 weeks.

Another insurance coverage bill is SB 757, which prevents employers with operations in multiple states from discriminating against same-sex couples by not offering domestic partner insurance benefits in the same manner as they offer benefits to spouses.

Misclassifying Employees as Contractors

SB 459 institutes new penalties from $5,000 to $15,000 for employers who willfully misclassify employees as independent contractors. Employers who engage in a “pattern or practice” of misclassification face fines from $10,000 to $20,000. Employers must also publish violations of the law on their companies’ websites.

Gender Discrimination

AB 877 increases protections for employees from gender discrimination. Currently, California law forbids discrimination in the workplace based on a person’s gender and gender identity. The new law protects employees from discrimination based on expression of gender through dress and behavior.

Credit Checks

AB 22 prevents employers from running credit checks on most prospective employees. Some exceptions include:

  • Exempt managerial potions
  • Some law enforcement jobs
  • Some positions with financial responsibilities
  • Some jobs that require employees to access proprietary information

The changes California made to its employment laws both clarify and expand employee rights and protections. If you believe that your workplace rights have been violated, contact an experienced employment law attorney who can discuss your situation with you and advise you of your options.