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NEW 2019 LAWS AFFECTING EMPLOYEES

California's employment laws are always evolving and being updated. Below is a list of new employment-related laws that became effective as of January 1, 2019.

Copy of Payroll Records (SB 1252) - Existing law already requires that employees have a right to inspect or copy their payroll records and that they must be allowed to do so within 21 days of such a request. This new law clarifies that if an employee requests a copy of the records, the employer must provide the copies (as opposed to requiring employees to copy the records themselves).

Paid Family Leave Uses (SB 1123) - This new law expands existing California law to provide paid family leave benefits beginning January 1, 2021 to employees who take time off for reasons associated with being called to active duty or a spouse, domestic partner, parent, or child being called to active duty.

Criminal History Inquiries (SB 1412) - Labor Code section 432.7 currently limits employers' ability to conduct criminal history inquiries and to use criminal history information in employment decisions. This bill amends existing law, which makes an exception for employers who are required by federal or state law to inquire into an applicant’s or employee’s criminal history, to tighten the exception to apply only where an employer is required by law to inquire into a “particular conviction” or where an employer cannot by law hire someone with a “particular conviction.”

Disclosure of Sexual Harassment (AB 3109) - This bill makes void and unenforceable any provision in a contract or settlement agreement that prevents a party to the contract from testifying about criminal conduct or sexual harassment in an administrative, legislative, or judicial proceeding.

Sexual Harassment (SB 224) - This bill expands the types of relationships that can be subject to a claim for sexual harassment to include include lobbyists, elected officials, directors, producers, and investors. This statute generally applies to work relationships where one person holds himself out as being able to help someone establish a business or professional relationship directly or with a third party.

Amendments to the Fair Employment and Housing Act (SB 1300) - This bill amends the FEHA by (1) adding a provision making it an unlawful practice for an employer to require an employee to release a FEHA claim in exchange for a bonus, raise, or continued employment; (2) making employers liable for any kind of unlawful harassment by non-employees (not just for sexual harassment as under existing law) where the employer knew or should have known of the harassment and failed to take appropriate remedial action; and (3) adding certain statements of legislative intent to make it harder for employers to prevail on harassment claims.

Sexual Harassment Training (SB 1343) - This bill amends the existing law, which requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide supervisors with sexual harassment training, to require employers with 5 or more employees and requires that employers provide at least 2 hours of training to supervisory employees and at least one hour of training to non-supervisory employees by January 1, 2020 and once every two years thereafter.

Statute of Limitations for Sexual Assault (SB 1619) - This bill enlarges the statute of limitations for filing a civil action for damages for sexual assault to 10 years after the alleged assault or 3 years after the plaintiff discovered or reasonably discovered injury as a result of the assault, whichever is later.

Lactation Accommodation (SB 1976) - This new law makes changes to existing lactation accommodation law. The existing law requires employers to make reasonable efforts to provide a location other than a toilet stall to be used for lactation. The new law specifies that the location should be something other than a bathroom and further specifies that it generally should be a permanent location but that it can be a temporary location if (1) the employer is unable to provide a permanent location due to operational, financial, or space limitations; (2) the temporary location is private and free from intrusion while being used for lactation purposes; and (3) the temporary location is not used for other purposes while being used for lactation. The new law also provides that an agricultural employer may comply by allowing an employee to use the air-conditioned cab of a tractor or truck. If an employer can prove that it is an undue hardship to comply with these requirements, the employer may be able to provide a location (including a bathroom) other than a toilet stall for the employee to use for lactation purposes.

Gender Composition of Boards of Directors (SB 826) - This new law provides for mandatory inclusion of women on corporate boards of directors. Specifically, by the end of 2019, publicly held domestic or foreign corporations with principal executive offices in California must have a minimum of one female director on its board, and by the end of 2021, these corporations must comply with the following: (1) If its number of directors is six or more, the corporation shall have a minimum of three female directors; (2) If its number of directors is five, the corporation shall have a minimum of two female directors; (3) If its number of directors is four or fewer, the corporation shall have a minimum of one female director. The new law also requires the Secretary of State to publish certain statistical information in this regard on its website.

On-call rest breaks for the Petroleum Industry - This new law was enacted as urgency legislation and took effect immediately. The new law provides that unionized workers in safety sensitive positions in the petroleum industry may be required to remain on call during rest breaks. This bill effectively provides an industry-specific exception to the California Supreme Court’s recent unfavorable ruling in Augustus v. ABM Security, which held that employees cannot be required to remain on call during rest breaks.

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