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California Workplace Law Blog

San Francisco implements ‘ban the box’ legislation

San Francisco has joined the growing numbers of cities and states around the country implementing “ban the box” legislation which restricts inquiries regarding an applicant’s criminal records on applications for employment and during job interviews.  The EEOC recommends “banning the box” in line with its guidance regarding convictions and consideration in use of information based on job-relatedness.  Currently, 10 states have “ban the box” laws in some form impacting public or both public and
private employers.  These states include Hawaii, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Minnesota, Illinois, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Maryland.  Other states that have “ban the box” legislation pending include Delaware, New Jersey, Michigan, North Carolina and Ohio, among others.  San Francisco’s Fair Chance Ordinance becomes operative on August 13, 2014 and applies to private sector employers in the city of San Francisco.  For specifics regarding the San Francisco ordinance click here for information.

Organ Donor’s Association-Disability Discrimination Claim Can Proceed, California Court Rules

Timing is not everything. In Rope v. Auto-Chlor of Washington System of Washington, Inc., the employer fired an employee for purported performance reasons on December 30, 2010 – two days before California’s Michelle Malkin Donor Protection Act became effective.   The timing was significant because when the employee was hired in October of 2010, he had told his employer that he needed to take leave in February of 2011 to donate a kidney to his sister, and he later requested 30 days of leave (the maximum involved under the new donor protection law) in February of 2011. The California Court of Appeals held that the employee could not state a claim under the Michelle Malkin Donor Protection Act because the Act was not yet in effect. However, the Court permitted the employee’s claim of “associational” disability discrimination to go forward, allowing the employee to litigate the question of whether the employer had terminated him due to his association with his sister. For more on this interesting case, click here.  

Protected Status for Veterans

On October 10, 2013, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill, A.B. 556, to add “military and veteran status” to the list of categories protected from employment discrimination under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”).

When this bill becomes operative on January 1, 2014, the FEHA will prohibit harassment and discrimination in employment because of:

• Race
• Religious Creed
• Color
• National Origin
• Ancestry
• Physical Disability
• Mental Disability
• Medical Condition
• Genetic Information
• Marital Status
• Sex
• Gender
• Gender Identity
• Gender Expression
• Age
• Sexual Orientation
Military and Veteran Status

“Military and veteran status” will be defined to mean any person who is “a member or veteran of the United States Armed Forces, United States Armed Forces Reserve, the United States National Guard, and the California National Guard.”

As a general reminder, any employer regularly employing five or more persons is covered by the FEHA. Employers subject to the provisions of the FEHA include private employers as well as state, city, county, and other government bodies. In fact, all governmental employers are covered under the FEHA regardless of size. Also covered are labor organizations, employment agencies, and apprenticeship programs. Furthermore, when harassment is at issue, every employer employing one or more persons or receiving the services of one or more independent contractor(s) is subject to the FEHA’s prohibition of harassment. Additionally, individual employees who harass another co-worker in violation of the FEHA can be held personally liable.

Overtime Requirements in the Home

On September 26, 2013, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill, A.B. 241, to give overtime pay to domestic workers such as caregivers, childcare providers, and housekeepers who work in private homes.

The bill enacts California Labor Code Sections 1450-1454 and will take effect on January 1, 2014. Under the new sections, domestic employees must be paid overtime pay at one-and-one-half times their regular pay rate after they work more than nine hours in one day or more than 45 hours in one week. The law is set to expire on January 1, 2017, unless lawmakers decide to extend it.

The new sections define “Domestic work” as “services related to the care of persons in private households or maintenance of private households or their premises.  Domestic work occupations include childcare providers, caregivers of people with disabilities, sick, convalescing, or elderly persons, house cleaners, housekeepers, maids, and other household occupations.” Accordingly, “Domestic work employee” is defined as “an individual who performs domestic work and includes live-in domestic work employees and personal attendants.”

Employers subject to California Wage Order 15 regulating Household Occupations should review their practices where the employer is relying on the Personal Attendant overtime exemption (Section 1(B)). Wage Order 15 defines “Personal attendant” as includingbaby sitters and means any person employed by a private householder or by any third partyemployer recognized in the health care industry to work in a private household, to supervise, feed, or dress a child or person whoby reason of advanced age, physical disability, or mental deficiency needs supervision.” Employers with employees exempt from overtime provisions based on the Personal Attendant exemption must determine whether the employees will still qualify.

Don’t ask (about my expunged, sealed or criminal records)!

Labor Code section 432.7 prohibits employers from considering, or asking applicants about, information concerning: (1) arrests or detentions not leading to conviction or (2) referral to, or participation in, a pretrial or post-trial diversion programs.  Newly passed SB 530 adds to these restrictions, amending section 432.7 to prohibit employers from asking job applicants about criminal records that have been expunged, sealed or dismissed.  Employers are exempt from these requirements if: (1) the employer is required by law to obtain such information; (2) the job would require the applicant to possess or use a firearm; (3) an individual who has been convicted of a crime is prohibited by law from holding the position sought by the applicant, regardless of whether that crime has been judicially dismissed, expunged, statutorily eradicated or ordered sealed; or (4) the employer is prohibited by law from hiring an applicant who has been convicted of a crime.  Employers should review their job applications to confirm compliance with the new law, and they should review with legal counsel any questions regarding exemptions.

California Governor Signs SB 435 Which Expands the One Hour Pay Penalty in Labor Code 226.7 to Missed “Recovery Periods”

Labor Code 226.7 provides that an employee should receive one hour of pay as a penalty for not receiving rest or meal periods in accordance with California law. Yesterday, Governor Brown signed into law SB 435 which expands the one hour of pay penalty to missed “recovery periods.”  The new law applies to any meal, rest or recovery period mandated by applicable statute, regulation, standard, or order of the California IWC, the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board, or the Division of Occupational Safety and Health.

SB 435 defines “Recovery Period” as “a cool down period afforded an employee to prevent heat illness.” Employers may consider reviewing the CA OSHA resources for preventing heat illness. For example, when the outdoor temperature exceeds 85 degrees Fahrenheit, CA OSHA mandates a recovery period of not less than 5 minutes for employees who work outside to take a cool-down rest, in the shade, to protect themselves from overheating.  The new law will likely lead to an increase in litigation. As a result, employers should review their procedures and policies.

New Bill Expands Scope of Paid Family Leave Law

 On September 24, 2013, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a bill that expands the application of the Family Temporary Disability Insurance program beginning on July 1, 2014. Family Temporary Disability Insurance is also known as Paid Family Leave. Paid Family Leave is a paid benefit provided by California Employment Development Department (“CA EDD”) when an employee is on an authorized employer leave. Paid Family Leave does not create a new right to leave but instead provides a means for eligible employees to receive paid benefits from CA EDD when on an authorized leave. The new law (SB 770) amends Sections 2708, 3300, 3301, 3302, and 3303 of the Unemployment Insurance Code relating to unemployment insurance.Currently, the

Paid Family Leave program provides up to six (6) weeks of wage replacement benefits to workers who take time off work to care for a seriously ill child, spouse, parent, or domestic partner or to bond with a minor child within one year of the birth or placement of the child in connection with foster care or adoption.

The new law expands the scope to also include paid benefits when an employee is taking time off to care for a seriously ill grandparent, grandchild, sibling, or parent-in-law. The bill also makes conforming and clarifying changes in provisions relating to family temporary disability compensation. Employers should be sure to modify any related policies by July 1, 2014.


On September 25th, CA Governor Will Sign AB 10 to Increase the CA State Minimum Wage

California Governor Brown has announced he will sign AB 10 tomorrow, in LA and Oakland, which will increase the CA state minimum wage effective July 1, 2014. See Brown’s statement: http://gov.ca.gov/news.php?id=18221. Since many employers are engaged in budgeting for 2014 and beyond, this new development should be factored into such plans.

You’re going to hear from (but not pay for) MY attorney

A radio program employee who faced substantial liability arising from a tragic on-air “water drinking contest” that ended in a tragic death was named an individual defendant in the survivors’ lawsuit.  The employer offered to defend the employee with a competent attorney of its choosing.  However, the employee took the position that Labor Code section 2802 required his employer to pay him for the attorney of his choice, insisted on hiring his own attorney and proceeded to so.  After a settlement and dismissal, he sought indemnity for more than $800,000 in costs and attorneys’ fees.  The trial court declined his request and the Court of Appeal affirmed, holding that employees do not have an absolute right to pick the attorney of their choice to represent them at the expense of their employer under section 2802, and the mere fact the employee may face potential punitive damages or criminal charges does not change this rule.  Thus, the employer met its burden by offering to defend the employee with competent independent counsel.  Carter v. Entercom Sacramento, LLC, No. C066751 (Cal. Ct. App. Sept. 3, 2013). Click here for more information.

You Mean You Don’t Pay Me to Sleep?

So asked a class of security guards who sought payment for all on-call time, including time spent on-call over weekend nights in company provided trailers.  The company did not pay them for an 8 hour period during which employees could sleep and refresh while on-call unless they were directed to conduct investigations during the on-call period.  In Mendiola v. CPS Security Solutions, Inc., No. B240519 (Cal. Ct. App. Jul. 3, 2013), the California Court of Appeal upheld much of the plaintiffs’ on-call claim but reversed part of the trial court’s judgment which would have required the employer to pay the guards for 24 hours of work performed during 24 hour weekend shifts even though they were free to sleep up to 8 hours during such shifts.  California law permits employers and employees to agree to exclude up to 8 hours per day for sleep time when employees work 24 hour shifts, and the employees had entered an enforceable on-call agreement to do so. Click here for more information.