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New Business Laws

Sonora, CA — There are numerous new laws impacting state employers that went into effect at the first of the year.


They range from making it illegal for most business owners to require a credit check before hiring an employee to mandating that group health insurance plans include pregnancy disability leave.


“Many of these new laws are going to impact small businesses not only throughout the state, but of course also right here in Tuolumne County,” says George Segarini, Tuolumne County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO.


The following list has been provided by the California Chamber of Commerce:


Credit Check


AB 22 prohibits employers and prospective employers, not including certain financial institutions, from obtaining and using consumer credit reports (credit information) about applicants or employees. The prohibition does not apply to “managerial positions,” defined as those who qualify for the executive exemption from overtime.


Pregnancy Disability Leave


SB 299 requires all employers with five or more employees to continue to maintain and pay for health coverage under a group health plan for an eligible female employee who takes Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL) up to a maximum of four months in a 12-month period.


Willful Misclassification of Independent Contractors


SB 459 provides new penalties of between $5,000 to $25,000 for the “willful misclassification” of independent contractors.


Written Commission Agreement


AB 1396 requires employers who have commission pay arrangements to put those agreements into a signed written contract. The written contract must set forth the method by which the commissions will be computed and paid. The bill is effective January 1, 2013. Employers have the entirety of 2012 to bring their commission agreements into compliance.


Notice of Pay Details


AB 469 requires employers to provide nonexempt employees, at the time of hire, a notice that specifies:
• The rate of pay and the basis, whether hourly, salary, piece commission or otherwise, including any overtime rate.
• Allowances, if any, claimed as part of the minimum wage, including meal and lodging allowances.
• The regular pay day designated by the employer as required under the Labor Code.
• The name of the employer, including any “doing business as” names.
• The physical address of the employer’s main office or principal place of business and any mailing address, if different.
• The telephone of the employer.
• The name, address and telephone number of the employer’s workers’ compensation carrier.


Organ and Bone Marrow Donor Leave


SB 272 clarifies the implementation of California’s organ and bone marrow donor leave law. The new legislation clarifies that the days of leave are business days, not calendar days, and that the one-year period is measured from the date the employee’s leave begins.


Genetic Information


SB 559 amends the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) to state that employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees on the basis of genetic information.


Gender Expression


AB 887 amends the Fair Employment and Housing Act to further define “gender” to include both gender identity and “gender expression” and to make clear that discrimination on either basis is prohibited. AB 887 also amends Government Code relating to dress codes to include that an employee must be allowed to dress consistently with both the employee’s gender identity and gender expression.


E-Verify


AB 1236 allows employers to continue to choose to use E-Verify, but prohibits California state agencies and local governments from passing mandates that require employers to use E-Verify.


Several cities in California passed local ordinances requiring the use of E-Verify in certain circumstances. This new law prohibits such state or local mandates, unless required by federal law or as a condition of receiving federal funds.


Interference With Rights Under Leave Laws


AB 592 adds language to the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) and the Pregnancy Disability Leave law (PDL) that makes it unlawful to interfere with or in any way restrain the exercise of rights under these laws.


Administrative Penalties


AB 240 allows an employee that alleges a minimum wage violation to recover liquidated damages pursuant to any complaint brought before the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE). This new law would allow the Labor Commissioner to also award such damages. Under the new liquidated damages provision, the employee would be entitled to recover an amount equal to the wages unlawfully unpaid, plus interest.


Wage Penalties


AB 551 increases the maximum penalty from $50 to $200 per calendar day for each worker paid less than the determined prevailing wage and increases the minimum penalty from $10 to $40 per day for violations of prevailing wage obligations. It also increases the penalty from $25 to $100 per calendar day, per worker, against contractors and subcontractors that fail to respond to a written request for payroll records within 10 days.


Farm Labor Contractors – Wage Notices


AB 243 amends the Labor Code to expand the information that must be included on pay statements, but only for farm labor contractors. Employers that are farm labor contractors must now disclose on the itemized payroll statement furnished to their employees, the name and address of all legal entities (for example other growers or other farm labor contractors) that secured the employer’s services.


Agricultural Labor Relations


SB 126 affects certification of bargaining representatives for agricultural employees. The new law, SB 126, provides that if the Agriculture Labor Relations Board (ALRB) finds employer misconduct that “in addition to affecting the outcome of the election, would render slight the chances of a new election reflecting the free and fair choice of employees,” then the ALRB can certify the labor union as the exclusive bargaining agent for employees.


Insurance Non-Discrimination Act


SB 757 closes an existing loophole and prevents employers that operate in multiple states from discriminating against same-sex couples by not providing the same insurance coverage for domestic partners as they do for spouses.


State Contracts – Gender or Sexual Orientation Discrimination


SB 117 outlaws the state of California from entering into contracts of more than $100,000 with companies that discriminate against the employees on the basis of gender or sexual orientation with regard to benefits. The new law makes it clear that companies doing business with the state of California cannot deny equal benefits to same-sex spouses.


Apprentice Programs


SB 56 changes the audit requirements for apprenticeship programs. This new law eliminates the mandate of random audits during five-year increments, and instead directs the Division to conduct audits of apprenticeship programs generally. It also creates requirements for applications for building and construction trades programs for approval of a new or expanded apprenticeship program.


Safe Lifting – Hospitals


AB 1136 provides that general acute care hospitals must maintain a safe patient handling policy for patient care units, including trained lift teams or training in safe lifting techniques for staff. The safe patient handling policy must be kept in accordance with the California Occupational Safety and Health Act and should be part of the Injury Illness and Prevention Program (IIPP) of these specific employers.


Workers’ Compensation Legislation


The governor signed these five workers’ compensation bills that were all supported by CalChamber.
• AB 335 – Requires the workers’ compensation administrative director (AD) to work with the Commission on Health and Safety and Workers’ Compensation (CHSWC) to develop regulations regarding notices to injured workers; requires AD and CHSWC to develop and make accessible a booklet written in plain language about the workers’ comp claims process; streamlines and simplifies other notices to employees.
• AB 378 – Lowers workers’ compensation costs by establishing guidelines for dispensing compound drugs, the circumstances under which those drugs would be covered and the reimbursement amount, and removes the incentives for physicians to refer patients to pharmacies in which the physician or physician’s family has a financial interest.
• AB 397 – Seeks to address the underground economy problem by singling out contractors that do not have workers’ compensation coverage but requiring contractors that are exempt from having coverage at the time they are licensed to certify they are still exempt or have gotten coverage at the time of their license renewal.
• AB 1168 – Lowers costs for employers and insurers by establishing a fee schedule for vocational experts’ services.
• AB 1426 – Streamlines the workers’ comp process and eliminates duplicative bureaucracy and inconsistency by eliminating the court administrator position.
The governor also signed a Workers’ Compensation related bill that CalChamber took no position on:
• AB 228 – Amends California Insurance Code to authorize the State Compensation Insurance Fund (SCIF) to provide workers’ compensation coverage to a California employer whose California employees temporarily work outside the state and whose injuries while performing out-of-state work might lead to workers’ compensation liability in some other state.


DFEH Procedural Regulations


Effective October 7, 2011, the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) has instituted new regulations relating to procedures for filing, investigating and processing discrimination and harassment claims. Overall, the regulations make it easier for claimants to file their complaints and initiate a DFEH investigation.