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Employer's Guide to Notable California Changes in 2018

This is another busy year for compliance developments in the Golden State. Here's an overview of what's new in California.
California changes

Employers in California are faced with another year of notable changes, including but not limited to those related to hiring practices, meal and break time policies, parental leave, and sexual harassment training. Companies that do business, employ workers, or have offices in California need to stay updated on state compliance changes to better avoid costly penalties:

Hiring practices

As efforts continue across the country to fight wage discrimination, a new law, effective January 2018, restricts California employers from asking job applicants about their current or previous pay salaries. Employers will also have to provide pay scales for a position when an applicant asks for it. 

California also enacted a new ban-the-box law that prohibits employers with at least five workers from considering a job applicant's criminal history until a conditional employment offer is made. If the employer decides to deny employment based on an applicant's criminal history, certain steps must be followed and notices must be supplied to the applicant before reaching a final decision.

Employers should provide guidance and training to their hiring teams on these changes, and review their application materials so that they don’t include salary or criminal history questions.

Meal and break time policies

Employees in California are entitled to a half-hour meal break after five hours of their shift. If the employee's total work hours for the day is not more than 6, the meal period may be waived by mutual written consent of both the employer and employee. That break generally must be counted in an employee's work time, except under certain circumstances.

Employees must also be given a ten consecutive minute paid rest or break period for every four hours they worked, or major fraction thereof. If the employer does not permit or authorize the required break period, the employee must be paid one full hour of pay at their regular rate for every workday that a break was not provided.

Although these laws are not new for 2018, there are complexities around California’s wage and hour laws; employers should consider reviewing their policies, and determine the effectiveness of their current time and attendance practices.

Parental leave policies

Before January 2018, employers with 50 or more employees were required to provide baby bonding leave under the California Family Rights Act. A new baby bonding leave law extends this parental leave requirement to companies with as few as 20 employees within 75 miles. Up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave must be provided to an employee who has at least 1,250 hours of service with an employer during any 12-month period, for the birth, adoption or foster care placement of a child. Employers must maintain medical coverage for the employee under a group health plan during the leave period.

Sexual harassment training

California employers with 50 or more employees must provide training to supervisors and managers within six months of becoming a supervisor/manager and at least once every two years thereafter. As of January 2018, required training to prevent sexual harassment must be expanded to include gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation. A transgender rights notice must also be posted in the workplace. In response to these new requirements, California employers should review their training materials and make revisions if necessary.

Employers in California must be vigilant in understanding the state’s complex employment laws and regulations. They should also review applicable local employment laws and regulations. Many employers are choosing to work with an experienced HR partner to help them identify areas of risk and ensure that their policies and procedures are up to date with the latest developments.

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* This content is for educational purposes only, is not intended to provide specific legal advice, and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice of a qualified attorney or other professional. The information may not reflect the most current legal developments, may be changed without notice and is not guaranteed to be complete, correct, or up-to-date.

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