New Year Brings New California Employment Laws

California employers and HR managers take note: the winds of change are blowing in your state, and they’re headed right for your employment practices…

On January 1, 2013, a broad range of new and revised labor regulations go into effect. Here’s a look at nine of them:

1. Written contracts for employees on commission:

“Beginning January 1, 2013, a new California law requires that employees who are paid on commission must be provided a written contract which sets forth the method by which the commission shall be computed and paid. This new law further requires that the employer provide a signed copy of the commission agreement to the employee and obtain a signed receipt for it.” (Fisher & Phillips)

2. Pregnancy disability leave regulations take effect:

“The Fair Employment and Housing Commission (FEHC) recently issued revised regulations that govern pregnancy disability leave (PDL) in California. The new regulations take effect December 30, 2012, and include changes that will affect employers’ pregnancy leave of absence policies. California employers with five or more employees are covered by PDL.” (Wilson Sonsini)

3. New rules on personnel file requests:

“An employer is required to provide employees and former employees, upon request, with a form to request personnel records ‘relating to the employee’s performance or to any grievance concerning the employee,’ but employees are not required to use the form.” (Constangy, Brooks & Smith)

4. Salaried, non-exempt employees entitled to overtime pay:

“Previously, certain California employers designated non-exempt employees as ‘salaried’ and paid them a fixed sum for both regular work hours and overtime work. The amount of pay remained the same, regardless of how many overtime hours were worked. AB 2103 makes this practice illegal… Now, a fixed salary can only compensate for regular, non-overtime hours, and the hourly rate for a non-exempt full-time salaried employee must be 1/40th of the employee’s weekly salary.” (Pepper Hamilton)

5. Additional protections for employees who are breastfeeding:

“Under FEHA, it is unlawful for employers to discriminate on the basis of sex. The term ‘sex’ now explicitly includes breastfeeding or medical conditions relating to breastfeeding, in addition to the existing categories of pregnancy, childbirth, gender, gender identity, and gender expression.“ (Greenberg Glusker)

6. Protection for religious dress and grooming practices:

“AB 1964 requires employers to accommodate religious dress and grooming practices (e.g., head scarves, religious jewelry, beards, etc.), but also clarifies that segregating an employee from other employees or the public is not a reasonable religious accommodation.” (Farella Braun + Martel)

7. Employers prohibited from accessing employee social media accounts:

“Under this [the new rules], an employer may not ‘require or request’ an employee or applicant to … [d]isclose a username or password for the purpose of accessing personal social media; [a]ccess personal social media in the employer’s presence; or [d]ivulge any personal social media, except in connection with the investigation of allegations of an employee’s misconduct or violation of applicable laws.” (Morrison & Foerster)

8. Increased penalties for paycheck statement violations:

“Employers are required to provide at least nine categories of specified information to employees on every wage statement each time wages are paid to an employee. An employee who “suffers an injury” as a result of an employer knowingly or intentionally failing to comply with the statute is entitled to recover damages against the employer.” (Allen Matkins)

9. Expanded protections for whistleblowers:

“Various provisions of California’s False Claim Act (CFCA) have been amended to conform with the federal False Claim Act. The CFCA provides protection and financial incentives for employees who oppose or report fraudulent claims made by their employers in connection with work performed for the state or its political subdivisions.” (Greenberg Glusker)

The updates:

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