2019 employment laws to be aware of in California

A swath of new employment laws for California, signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on September 30, 2018, have taken effect this year and will have some significant effects on employers throughout the state.

Here are some of the changes that will affect your small business:

SB 820: Confidentiality Clauses in Settlement Agreements

Consider this law California’s response to the Me Too Movement that began in Hollywood. In a nutshell, SB 820 limits confidentiality provisions in “secret settlements” and expands the categories in which these restrictions apply.

Under the new law, settlement agreements related to claims of sexual harassment, assault, or discrimination may not include confidentiality clauses that prevent the sharing of any factual information about those claims, except to protect the identity of the person making the claim.

SB 1192: Children’s Meals

Under this bill, restaurants that sell children’s meals with beverages must now make the default beverage water, milk, or a dairy-free milk alternative.

Customers are still free to request alternative beverages if they wish. This is an effort designed to limit consumption of sugary drinks and combat childhood obesity.

Restaurants found to be in violation will receive a notice, and a second citation within 5 years would result in a $250 fine. Fines will increase with additional violations.

SB 1252: Amendments to Labor Code

Current law requires employers to provide employees with comprehensive statements about the amounts of money earned and hours worked.

Current and former employees already have the right to inspect or copy records pertaining to their employment upon request, and employers are required to respond to such requests within a certain amount of time, or else be subject to fines.

This new bill gives employees the right to receive copies of these records and apply the associated time requirements and penalties if the employer does not meet them.

SB 1300: Sexual Harassment

This bill is intended to provide greater protections to employees when it comes to workplace harassment. One of the main parts of Senate Bill 1300 increases restrictions on employer-drafted releases and non-disparagement agreements.

Employers are prohibited (in exchange for a raise, bonus, or as condition of employment) from requiring an employee to sign any release, non-disparagement agreement, or other document that denies the employee the right to disclose information about unlawful workplace acts such as harassment.

Employers will now also be responsible for the acts of non-employees when it comes to acts of workplace harassment (not just workplace harassment). Non-employees may include interns, volunteers, and service contractors.

SB 1343: Sexual Harassment Training

Under this bill, all employers with 5 or more employees are required to provide the following within 6 months of hiring or promoting an employee:

  • 2 hours of sexual harassment prevention training to supervisors or managers.

  • 1 hour of sexual harassment prevention training to all employees in non-supervisory roles.

Further training will occur every 2 years thereafter. The Department of Fair Employment and Housing will provide an online training course to meet the requirements of the state.

AB 1976: Lactation Accommodation

Current state law states employers must provide locations other than toilet stalls for employees to pump breast milk or breast feed their children. This location must be in close proximity to the employee’s work station and be private.

In 2019, employer provide a private location other than a bathroom for the same purposes.

AB 1884: Reducing Use of Plastic Straws

This new legislation follows on the heels of a popular nationwide movement to stop using plastic straws. Now, under this law, full-service or “sit-down” restaurants are prohibited from providing single-use plastic straws to consumers unless specifically requested by the consumer.

Fast food establishments are not affected by this bill and may continue to offer straws with their drink orders. Infractions are punishable by a fine of $25 for each day the restaurant is in violation, with an annual maximum of $300.

AB 2770: Defamation Protection

As another response to the Me Too Movement, AB 2770 aims to help both employers and victims of sexual harassment by providing protections from defamation liability in certain situations.

Alleged victims of sexual harassment by a co-worker can make credible complaints to their employer without fear of being deemed liable for defaming his/her harasser.

Employers are also protected from this liability when they make statements concerning sexual harassment claims to authorities. These statements and complaints are protected from defamation liability only if they are made without malice and based on credible evidence.

The goal in expanding these protections is to encourage victims of sexual harassment to speak out. Employers have a legal obligation to investigate these claims and now may do so more effectively without fearing liability for defamation of the alleged harasser(s) in the workplace.

To understand the multiple new protections provided by this new law and similar older laws, contact an experienced employment law attorney.

Business owners: make sure your business is compliant with new labor laws

For more information about some of the new laws that could affect California businesses this year, contact our experienced team of Los Angeles employment law attorneys at Amity Law Group, LLP. Compliance with new labor laws is necessary to avoid potential fines and even lawsuits.

For a free consultation, call or text us at (626) 307-2800.

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