New Employment Laws in California for 2015 (Part Two)

By Assaf Lichtash

In the first part of this series, we discussed some of the new employment laws going into effect in California for 2015 involving paid sick leave, discrimination protections for unpaid interns, mandatory harassment training, and protections from immigration-related discrimination. The following are some of the additional changes in the law that may affect employees in our state.

Heat Illness Prevention

A new safety and health provision was enacted intending to protect workers with outdoor jobs from illnesses and conditions related to overexposure to heat. State law already required employers to allow and even encourage workers to take rest and recovery breaks in the shade for at least five minutes when necessary to avoid heat-related illness. The law did not previously specify whether or not such recovery breaks should be counted as paid time, however, the new amendment to the law requires that employers count recovery breaks as time worked and compensate workers for such breaks.

Additional Damages in Child Labor Cases

The Child Labor Protection Act of 2014 provides treble damages for victims of unlawful employment actions that occurred when the individual was a minor. Treble damages mean that the court will automatically multiply the amount of actual damages suffered by three. The statute of limitations in such cases will also be paused until the victim reaches the age of 18 years.

Local Minimum Wage Increases

As of July 1, 2014, minimum wage for California workers is $9.00 per hour, as opposed to the federal minimum wage of $7.25. The state minimum wage is set to increase again in 2016 to $10.00 per hour, however employers should also pay close attention to any relevant minimum wage laws on the local level. For example, San Francisco minimum wage increased to $11.05 as of January 1 of this year, and is set to keep gradually increasing up to $15.00 per hour by 2018. The next increase to $12.25 per hour will take place this coming May. Oakland also passed a similar law for its local minimum wage, and Berkeley’s minimum wage is currently at $10.00 with two additional increases in the next two years. All employers should be sure to comply with all local minimum wage laws if they are higher than the state minimum wage.

Penalties to Victims of Retaliation

Previously, California law penalized employers up to $10,000 for unlawful adverse employment actions in retaliation for a worker filing a complaint with the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement. The law, however, did not specify to whom the $10,000 would be paid. The new amendment specifies that the victim of the retaliation should receive the funds from the civil penalty.

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