The Labor Commissioner has New Powers and Don’t E-Verify too Early! What’s New for California Employers in the New Year

by Elizabeth Burnett, Attorney

January 1, 2016 will bring in the New Year and along with it, 9 New Laws for California Employers.  Review your policies and handbooks now to ensure compliance with the new laws that 2016 will bring.

Labor Commissioner’s New Powers – Enforcing Local Wage and Hour Laws and Judgments against Employers

AB 970 expands the enforcement powers of the State Labor Commissioner to enforce local laws.The Commissioner will have new powers to issue citations and penalties against employers who fail to comply with local overtime or minimum wage provisions or fail to properly indemnify employees for on-the-job expenses. SB 599 authorizes the Labor Commissioner to use any of the existing remedies available to a judgment creditor and to act as a levying officer when enforcing a judgment pursuant to a writ of execution.  So for instance, if a final judgment against an employer remains unsatisfied 31 days after the time to appeal has expired, and no appeal is pending, the employer will not be unable to conduct business without filing a bond, up to $150,000, with the Labor Commissioner.

Use E-Verify After Offering Employment 

AB 622 prohibits employers from using the E-Verify system to check the employment authorization status of existing employees or applicants who have not yet received an offer of employment, (except as required by federal law or as a condition of receiving federal funds).  It also requires employers who receive notice that the information entered into E-Verify doesn’t match federal records, to provide the affected person with that information as soon as practicable.

New Protections from Discrimination; the New Equal Pay Act; and New Rules for Employee’s Rights to Time Off.

AB 987 protects employees “requesting” an accommodation for a disability or religious belief or observance, regardless of whether the request was granted.  And AB 1509 prohibits employers from retaliating against an employee because the employee is a family member of a person who has, or is perceived to have, engaged in any acts protected by the anti-discrimination laws.  SB 538 expands the Equal Pay Act to prohibit employers from paying employees of the opposite sex lower wage rates for “substantially similar work, when viewed as a composite of skill, effort, and responsibility, and performed under similar working conditions.”  The new Equal Pay Act also increases employer’s defense burdens and prohibits certain employer pay secrecy policies.  SB 579 expands and revises the rules for employees who take time off to participate in school activities and employee’s rights to take use sick leave under “California’s Kin Care Law.”

New Piece-Rate Compensation Rules and Wage Garnishment Restrictions 

AB 1513 applies to employers who compensate on a piece-rate basis. This new law requires that employees be compensated for rest and recovery periods and “other nonproductive time” separate from any piece-rate compensation.  And SB 501 reduces the prohibited amount of an individual judgment debtor’s weekly disposable earnings subject to levy under an earnings withholding order.

Employer policies should reflect these these new laws in 2016.  Contact Cutting Edge Counsel, Inc. for expert employment law guidance to help your company get compliant with the new laws before the New Year!


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