California Legislative Update: July 2014

by Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C.

Governor Jerry Brown recently signed into law a number of bills that will impact the employer community. A brief summary of these new laws, along with links to the bills, can be found below.

Marriage (SB 1306)

SB 1306 updates language in the California Constitution regarding marriage, a year after the Supreme Court of the United States cleared the way for same-sex marriage in California. The terms “husband and wife” and “unmarried man and unmarried woman” will be changed to “spouses” and “two unmarried people,” respectively. The change updates the language in the state constitution to be consistent with state law.

Practical Tip: This law does not directly impact California employers that already extend equal rights to same-sex married couples.

Compensation: Rest or Recovery Periods (SB 1360)

SB 1360 provides that a rest or recovery period, afforded to an employee by law to prevent heat illness, will be counted as hours worked for which there will be no deduction from wages. This bill is declaratory and clarifies that employees must be paid for the recovery periods that they take during hot weather.

Practical Tip: This law follows SB 435, which grants premiums to employees deprived of mandated recovery periods. Employers of outdoor workers are urged to update their heat illness policies and procedures.

Health Care Coverage: Small Employer Market (SB 1446)

SB 1446 is a fix relating to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for small employers. It allows certain small employers (i.e., those with less than 50 employees) to keep their existing, non-ACA compliant health care coverage until the end of 2015, if the employer meets certain criteria. SB 1446 applies to policies that (1) were in effect on December 31, 2013; (2) were still in effect when the bill was signed on July 7, 2014; and (3) do not qualify as a grandfathered health plan under the ACA. These plans will need to become compliant with ACA requirements by January 1, 2016, in order to remain in force. (For more on SB 1446, see our blog post, “California Governor Signs Bill Giving Small Businesses Extra Time to Comply with ACA.”

Practical Tip: Premiums will be lower for these plans. Employers are encouraged to talk to an insurance broker about preserving them through 2015.

Occupational Safety and Health: Reporting Requirements (AB 326)

AB 326 addresses the manner by which employers must report workplace accidents in compliance with Cal/OSHA. The new law requires employers to make an immediate report by telephone or email of every case involving an employee’s serious injury or illness or death to the Division of Occupational Safety and Health. The bill changes the wording in Section 6409.1 of the California Labor Code from “report by telephone or telegraph” to “report by telephone or email.”

Practical Tip: It’s official, employers can dispose of their telegraphs.

Child Labor Protection Act of 2014 (AB 2288)

AB 2288 addresses civil sanctions relating to the unlawful employment of minors. On July 8, 2014, Governor Brown signed into law the Child Labor Protection Act of 2014. Under the Act, an individual may be entitled to treble damages if he or she is discriminated against in the terms or conditions of his or her employment because he or she filed a claim or civil action alleging a violation of the California Labor Code that arose while he or she was a minor.

The new law specifies that the statute of limitations for a child labor violation is tolled until the child reaches the age of 18. The bill also increases civil penalties in Class “A” violations involving a minor 12 years of age from $5,000-$10,000 to $25,000-$50,000. Class “A” violations typically involve placing children into hazardous occupations or dangerous settings.

Retaliation (AB 2751)

AB 2751 follows legislation enacted last year, prohibiting among other things employers from using immigration status to retaliate against workers who exercise their rights under the California Labor Code. The new law requires that the $10,000 civil penalty under AB 263 be paid directly to the employee or employees who faced the illegal retaliation, instead of the state. AB 2751 limits the scope of AB 263 with respect to the prohibition against taking disciplinary action against an employee who “updates or attempts to update his or her personal information” unless directly related to job skills, qualifications, or knowledge. The amended language protects only employees who update or attempt to update personal information “based on a lawful change of name, social security number, or federal employment authorization document.” The language is narrowed so that it does not protect those employees who correct misrepresentations about their education or criminal history.

Practical Tip: The amended language gives employers more latitude in disciplining employees who make false statements unrelated to immigration status. Where employees make changes to immigration-related documents, employers must act cautiously to avoid a violation of the anti-retaliation provisions of the law.

Note: This article was published in the July 2014 issue of the California eAuthority.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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