New Employment Laws in California for 2015 (Part One)

By Assaf Lichtash

In 2014, the California legislature passed numerous laws related to employment, most of which went into effect on January 1, 2015. Both employees and employers should be aware of their rights and responsibilities under these new laws. The following is a brief overview of some of the important changes in California employment laws for 2015.

Paid sick leave

Under the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014, any employer in the state must provide paid sick leave to employees who have worked at least 30 days. Employees have the right to accrue sick time at a minimum rate of one paid hour per every 30 days on the job, though employers do have the right to cap the annual accrual of paid sick leave at six days (or 48 hours) or an individual’s annual use of paid sick leave at three days (or 24 hours). Employees must receive their regular rate of pay for sick time used. Though this law does not go into effect until July 1, it is a good idea for employers to begin reviewing sick leave policies now to plan ahead.

Anti-discrimination protection for unpaid interns and volunteers

Lawmakers amended the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) to extend anti-discrimination protections enjoyed by traditional employees to volunteer and unpaid internship positions. Interns and volunteers are now protected from discrimination or harassment at work due based on any of the following:

Gender (including gender expression and gender identity)
Sex (including pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, and related conditions)
Sexual orientation
Marital status
Physical and mental disabilities, including AIDS and HIV
Other medical conditions
Religious creed
National origin
Language restrictions
Genetic information
Military or veteran status

Laws related to immigrants

There are two new laws related to discrimination against non-citizen employees in California. Under these two provisions, employers are prohibited from doing any of the following:

Filing or threatening to file a false report with any federal or state agency due to immigration-related reasons.
Discriminating or retaliating against an employee due to an update of a lawful change in Social Security number, name, or employment authorization documents.
Discriminating against an employee because he or she has an AB 60 driver’s license, which is a type of driver’s license issued to a California resident who cannot prove that they are legally present in the United States, but meet all other licensing qualifications.

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