California employment laws taking effect in 2018

A wide variety of important bills will impose new requirements on state employers.

The California legislature was very busy in 2017, sending 977 bills to Gov. Jerry Brown in the fall, including important legislation that will assign new legal responsibilities to employers. The governor only vetoed 118 of them, according to The Mercury News.

Here are summaries of some of the major bills affecting employers and employees. Most take effect on January 1, 2018.

The statewide minimum wage will increase to $11.00 per hour for employers with at least 26 employees and to $10.50 for employers with fewer employees. Some salaried employees exempt from mandatory overtime also get a boost. For employers with at least 26 employees, the minimum annual salary for full-time exempt employees will be $45,760. (For employers with fewer salaried employees, the minimum salary stays at $43,680.) Local governments may mandate higher minimum wages.

New-parent leave requirements that already apply to employers with more than 50 employees will begin to include employers with 20 to 49 employees (and state or city government employers), provided certain eligibility conditions are met. Eligible employees, both mothers and fathers, must be given up to 12 weeks of leave without pay within one year of adoption, birth or foster care. The employer must provide a "guarantee of employment in the same or a comparable position" after the leave is over and must continue group health plan coverage through the leave in most circumstances.

With particular exceptions, a "ban-the-box" law will forbid an employer of at least five employees from inquiring about an applicant's criminal history. A conditional employment offer may be extended, after which the employer may access certain types of criminal history. If the employer rescinds the offer because of criminal history, the applicant has the right to respond and the information provided must be taken into consideration in the hiring decision. The law includes particular notice requirements.

Employers may no longer ask job applicants about their salary and benefit histories, although such history may be considered if voluntarily revealed. Salary history may not be the basis of hiring or salary decisions.

Employers will be required to provide certain federal immigration law enforcement protections or risk being fined. For example, an employer may only let federal agents into nonpublic parts of work premises if a warrant has been issued. Employment-record review also will require a subpoena or warrant. If an employer gets notice of an impending Form I-9 inspection, certain notice requirements to employees and union representatives are triggered.

Other laws relevant to employers deal with paid family leave and state disability insurance; supervisor training and poster requirements concerning harassment based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression; expansion of general contractor liability for unpaid subcontractor employee wages; requirement that sexual harassment training by farm labor contractors be provided in languages employees can understand; new protections against discrimination and harassment for military veterans and service members; and others.

Any employer with questions about compliance should speak with an experienced employment law attorney for guidance. On the other side, any employee who wonders how these laws will affect them in the workplace can seek legal guidance from a lawyer.

The attorneys at Bononi Law Group, LLP, represent employees in the state of California in a wide variety of employment law matters like unlawful discrimination and harassment, or wage-and-hour violations. In addition, they advise employers about their legal responsibilities toward their employees and provide guidance in carrying out those duties, including the creation of company policies and procedures, the drafting of employee handbooks and the establishment of lawful workplaces.