Governor Signs New Labor and Employment Laws for 2019

On September 30th, 2018, the last day to sign or veto bills, Governor Jerry Brown altered the landscape for California employers in a number of significant ways. Here are some of the more noteworthy new laws taking effect in January 2019 that employers should anticipate and prepare for:

Lactation Accommodation (AB 1976):  Under current state law employers must provide a location other than a toilet stall for employees to express breast milk. The location must also be private and in close proximity to the employee’s work area. This new law requires that employers provide a location other than a “bathroom,” rather than a “toilet stall.” As a result, employers cannot designate a bathroom as a designated space to express breast milk.

Salary History (AB 2282): This new law clears up ambiguities in last year’s AB 168, the ban on salary history inquiries and the requirement to provide pay scales to applicants. The California Labor Code will now specify that employers may inquire about an applicant’s salary expectations for the position being applied for. External applicants (not current employees) are entitled to a pay scale upon request, but only after completing an initial interview.

Defamation Protection (AB 2770):  Under this new law, employers and victims of sexual harassment will be protected from liability for defamation lawsuits for injury to an alleged harasser’s reputation after a complaint of sexual harassment has been made. An employee who makes credible reports of harassment will be shielded from liability, as will an employer that communicates with interested parties such as victims and witnesses. When contacted for a job reference about a current or former employee, an employer will now be permitted to reveal whether the individual is not eligible for rehire because the employer determined that he/she engaged in sexual harassment.

Confidentiality Clauses in Settlement Agreements (SB 820): This new law expands the types of cases in which so-called “secret settlements” are restricted. It prohibits any settlement agreement in a case where sexual harassment, assault or discrimination has been alleged from including a confidentiality provision that prohibits disclosure of factual information regarding the claim, except with regard to the claimant’s identity.

Paid Family Leave (SB 1123): The Paid Family Leave wage replacement program will be expanded beginning January 1, 2021 to any employee who takes time off to attend to situations related to the covered active duty status of the employee’s spouse, registered domestic partner, child or parent who is a member of the US Armed Forces. Known as “qualifying exigencies,” these situations could include time off for official ceremonies, briefings, changes to child care arrangements, financial or legal arrangements, counseling or spending time with the covered service member during rest and recuperation leave, among others.

Sexual Harassment (SB 1300): In this far-reaching new law, the California legislature declared its intent to create a much lower bar for employees to bring harassment lawsuits, and limited the ability of employers to obtain summary judgment in such cases.

Sexual Harassment Training (SB 1343): Current law requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide supervisors with two hours of sexual harassment training within six months of hire or promotion. Beginning January 1, 2020, all employers with five or more employees will be required to provide two hours of sexual harassment training to supervisors and one hour to nonsupervisorial employees within six months of hire or promotion, and every two years after that. The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing will be required to provide an online training course that meets the new legal requirements.

To view the full text of each bill that was signed into law, click here to search by bill number: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/

For more information about these new laws please contact Ron S. Brand of The Brand Law Firm.

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