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New year will bring new legal protections for California workers

Governor Jerry Brown's bill signing pens got a lot of use this year, and we will see the results in the upcoming new year. In 2014, a number of new California laws will take effect that are designed to protect employees from workplace discrimination and expand their rights and benefits. We'll take a look at a few of the key legislative changes that will positively impact California workers.

We've discussed SB 400 here previously. This law goes into effect on Jan. 1. It provides additional workplace protections to employees who are victims of domestic violence or stalking. Under the new law, employers cannot fire, discriminate against, or penalize an employee because he or she is a victim of one of these crimes. According to the text of the bill, which also extends to victims of sexual assault, businesses with 25 employees or more must give victims time off for things like going to court or seeking medical treatment. It also requires employers to take reasonable steps to help protect victims while they are in the workplace.

SB 770, which will take effect on July 1 of next year, expands the state's Paid Family Leave benefits. Under the program now, people can take time away from work and be eligible for State Disability Insurance if they are taking care of a child, parent, spouse or domestic partner who is seriously ill. The new law, which recognizes the reality that family members from various generations often live together and depend on one another, will also allow these benefits if someone needs to care for a grandchild, grandparent, in-law, or sibling.

A couple of new laws focus on strengthening protections for immigrants from employer abuse. AB 263 prohibits employers from threatening to report an immigrant to authorities if he or she makes a complaint about employment issues, including minimum wage violations. A second law, SB 666, allows the state to take away a company's business license if it makes such a threat to an employee.

Some California business owners and legislators claim that the laws will burden companies and hurt their bottom line. Some employers, no doubt, will violate these laws. However, now employees and their attorneys will have this legislation in their arsenal to fight back against employer violations.

Source:, "New biz laws in the wings for 2014" Clay Moffitt, Dec. 02, 2013

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