Several new employment laws taking effect on January 1, 2019, require employers to change policies, forms, and procedures. Below is a non-exhaustive summary of key changes that will affect training programs, employee handbooks and policies, employment documents, internal processes, and notices. This list may not take into account special exceptions contained in the laws. It also is not legal advice tailored to your organization’s particular situation.

Training Programs.  Employers with at least five employees will be required to provide harassment prevention training (i.e., “AB 1825” training) to all employees, not just “supervisors.”  Employers must comply by January 1, 2020 (SB 1343).  Non-supervisory employees must receive one hour of training every two years, and supervisory employees must receive two hours of training every two years.  Employers must also train employees hired to work fewer than six months (e.g., seasonal or temporary employees) within 30 calendar days of hire or within 100 hours worked, whichever occurs first.  The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing apparently is taking the position that supervisors trained in 2018 must be trained again in 2019, so all employees are on the same schedule going forward.  Stay tuned.

Employee Handbooks/Policies.  Employers should update their paid family leave policies (SB 1123).  Beginning on January 1, 2021, active duty servicemembers and qualifying family members are eligible for six weeks of paid family leave benefits when the servicemember is called to active duty in a foreign country.  In addition, a spouse, domestic partner, child, or parent of a servicemember may also qualify for paid family leave if they participate in a “qualifying exigency,” such as a military-sponsored ceremony or arranging for childcare because of the family member’s call to active duty.  Employers should keep in mind that although SB 1123 provides paid family leave, it does not provide a right to time off. 

AB 1976 requires employers to provide a non-bathroom location for employee lactation breaks.  Employers who are unable to provide a permanent lactation location due to operational, financial, or space limitations may provide a temporary lactation location, which must be private and used only for lactation while an employee expresses breast milk.  Employers are exempt from the new law if can show an undue hardship would result.  However, federal law only exempts employers with fewer than 50 employees.  For that reason, many employers must update their lactation break policies to comply with the new requirement.

The National Labor Relations Board now allows facially-neutral workplace policies justified by a legitimate business reason.  The NLRB now takes into account the nature and extent of the potential impact on an employee’s rights as well as the employer’s business reasons for the policy.  Policies addressing disruptive behavior, insubordination, and civility in the workplace (among others) generally are lawful.  Consequently, employers may update their employee handbooks to provide additional guidance on their standards of workplace conduct. 

Employment Documents.  As of this writing, the Internal Revenue Service has not released the 2019 standard mileage rate used for reimbursement of employees’ use of their personal vehicle.  Once the IRS issues the new rates, employers should update expense reimbursement documents to reflect the new reimbursement rate.

Pursuant to the Cal-OSHA emergency amendments, many employers must submit Cal-OSHA 300A forms to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, better known as OSHA, by year’s end.  All employers with 250 or more employees must comply with this requirement. In addition, employers in a number of industries (e.g., agricultural, utility, construction, manufacturing, merchandise store, grocery store, transportation, etc.) with between 20 to 250 employees must also comply.  Covered employers should take care to submit timely documentation.

Internal Processes.  Employers must provide current or former employee with a “physical copy” of payroll records (e.g., itemized wage statements) upon request (SB 1252).  A physical copy means either a duplicate of the wage statement provided to employee at payday or a computer-generated record showing the same information. If an employee requests a copy, it is insufficient to merely make available the records for the employee to copy.

AB 2282 provides employers with guidance regarding the recent law that states employers must provide pay scale information upon “reasonable request.”  A “reasonable request” means a request made after an initial interview, and “pay scale” information means the employer’s salary or hourly wage range.  In addition, employers are required to provide a pay scale only to applicants, not to current employees.  Although employers may not ask applicants about their prior salary, they may ask applicants about their salary expectation for the position.  Employers should update their internal processes to reflect this new guidance.

Employers should review exempt employees’ salaries to ensure these salaries qualify for the exemption.  In California, exempt employees under the professional, executive, administrative exemptions must be paid at least two times the state minimum wage, which is increasing to $12.00/hour for employers with 26 or more employees and $11.00/hour for employers with 25 or fewer employees.  On January 1, 2019, the minimum annual salary for the computer software employee exemption increases to $94,603.25 (or $45.41/hour) from the 2018 rate of $90,790.07 (or $43.58/hour).

Public employers must provide new hire employees’ contact information and new hire orientation access to unions.  (AB 119).  SB 866 expends the current law’s requirements. Employees’ exclusive bargaining representative must now receive new employee information such as name, job title, and work location, and work, home, and cell phone numbers within 30 days of hire. Conversely, home addresses, telephone numbers, and birthdates are excluded from disclosure under the Public Records Act, subject to narrow exceptions.  Employers should update their internal processes to reflect these changes.

Notices.  Job applicants and employees who undergo a background check must receive a revised copy of the Fair Credit Reporting Act “A Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act,” which now contains a section on new security freeze rights. 

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