By Terri Olson

New California employment law changes are coming in the new year. Here are SOME of the important changes your business should be aware of.

1. Sexual Harassment Prevention Training (SB1343): Effective January 1, 2019, California employers with at least five (5) employees must provide sexual harassment prevention training to all supervisory employees and non-supervisory employees in California by January 1, 2020. The law requires:

• For supervisory employees: at least two hours of sexual harassment prevention training.
• For non-supervisory employees: at least one hour of sexual harassment prevention training.
• Training must be provided once every two years.
• Training must be provided to temporary or seasonal workers within 30 calendar days after hire or within 100 hours worked if the employee will work for less than six months.

What you NEED to do: Provide an updated harassment prevention policy to all employees. Schedule training for all employees and management team before January 2020.

2. Applicant Salary History Update (AB 2282): Previously under the California Equal Pay Act, employers were prohibited from inquiring about an applicant’s salary history to determine their salary pay. Effective January 1, 2019, the Equal Pay Act will be amended as followers:

• Employers may inquire about an applicant’s salary expectations for the position for which the candidate has applied.
• External applicants –not current employees – are entitled to a pay scale upon request, but only after completing an initial interview.
• Employers can make compensation decisions based on a current employee’s prior salary so long as any wage differential is based on legal factors (seniority system, merit system, or other bona fide factor other than race, sex or ethnicity).

What you NEED to do: Make sure you have wage ranges for each position to make available upon request. Train all hiring managers on proper interviewing practices including appropriate questions regarding compensation.

3. De Minimis Doctrine: On July 26, 2018, the California Supreme Court decided in Troester v. Starbucks Corporation that the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) de minimis doctrine does not apply to claims for unpaid wages under the California law. Employers are required to compensate employees who routinely work for minutes off the clock, such as taking out trash, bringing chairs in, or locking doors. The court allows employers to estimate the extra time worked.

What you NEED to do: Carefully evaluate your timekeeping practices to determine whether any work is being performed before or after employees are clocking in/out, especially work done regularly and amounting to more than a few seconds.

4. Defamation Protection (AB 2770): This bill protects employers and victims of sexual harassment from liability for defamation lawsuits for injury to an alleged harasser’s reputation after a complaint of sexual assault has been made. An employee who reports harassment, without malice and with credible evidence, will be shield from liability, as well as an employer who communicates with interested parties such as victims and witnesses.

When contacted for a job reference about a current or former employee, an employer can avoid a defamation claim if it, without malice, reveals whether the individual is not eligible for rehire because the employer determined that he/she engaged in sexual harassment. This new law does not insulate employers from other types of legal claims that can arise when a former employer provides information that prevents and employee from being hired elsewhere.

What you NEED to do: Inform your HR staff of defamation protection. Allowed only trained HR representatives to respond to reference checks when the inquiry is related to an employee who engaged in sexual harassment.

5. Confidentiality Clauses in Settlement Agreements (SB 820): This new law expands the types of cases in which so-called “secret settlements” are restricted. It prohibits any settlement in a case where sexual harassment, assault or discrimination has been alleged from including a confidentiality provision that prohibits disclosure of factual information regarding the claim, except with regard to the claimant’s identity.

What you NEED to do: Have any settlement agreement drafted by an employment attorney to ensure the language is appropriate to protect your business.

6. Employer Responsibility for Non-employees (SB 1300): SB 1300 mandates that an employer may be responsible for the acts of non-employees with respect to any type of harassment (not just sexual harassment) against employees and other non-employees working as interns or volunteers and service contractors. SB 1300 makes it an unlawful employment practice for an employer, in exchange for a raise or bonus or as a condition of employment or continued employment, to do the following:

• Require an employee to sign a release stating the employee does not possess any claim or injury against the employer or other covered entity, and include the release of a right to file and pursue a civil action or complaint with, or otherwise notify, a state agency, law enforcement agency, court, or other governmental entity; or
• Require an employee to sign a non-disparagement agreement or other document that purports to deny the employee the right to disclose information about unlawful acts in the workplace, including, but not limited to, sexual harassment.

What you NEED to do: Update and reissue your harassment/ discrimination policy and/ or Employee Handbook to include this added language and ensure the management team is educated on the changes.

7. California Minimum Wage Increases Continue:
• Companies with 25 employees or less — $11.00/ hour
• Companies with 26 or more employees — $12.00/ hour
• Minimum weekly compensation for executive, professional and administration exemption classifications must be at least twice California State minimum wage = $960/ week, $4,160/ month, or $49, 920/ year.
• Individual cities may have other minimum wage changes including the City of Los Angeles and unincorporated cities in Los Angeles County.

To find out more about your obligations as an employer under current and new California employment laws, please contact Terri Olson at 714-441-2422 or She founded HR Prescriptions in January 2000 for the sole purpose of helping small and mid-size employers deal with the complexities of managing their human capital. In acting as her clients’ on and off-site HR Director, her philosophy has been to keep it simple. She only recommends what the client needs to enhance their employees’ performance and protect their business from legal exposure for non-compliance of State and Federal regulations. After spending most of her career in the corporate world, Terri began her own venture as an independent consultant. As an outsourcing specialist, her focus is on providing an on- and off-site HR professional for small to mid-sized companies. Her clients have come to trust her to give honest and simplified advice to minimize the risks in managing their most valuable asset…their employees. She provides a bottom-line, pro-active approach to people management, consulting and coaching with a business partner mentality. Her experience offers real-world insight of what works and doesn’t work in today’s rapidly changing workplace environment.

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