Overview of Recent Changes in Employment Law in California for 2020

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Dias Law Firm, Inc. assists employers in keeping compliant with the numerous laws affecting and regulating employment practices and policies.  Several notable labor and employment laws became effective on January 1, 2020.  Below are the highlights of several laws every employer in California should be aware.

California’s Minimum Wages and Exempt Salary Thresholds Increased

The minimum wage for California employees increased from $12 per hour to $13 per hour for employers with 26 or more employees.  Accordingly, the exempt annual salary threshold for these employees increased from $49,920 to $54,080.  For employers with up to 25 employees, the minimum wage increased from $11 per hour to $12 per hour, with the exempt annual salary threshold increased from $45,760 to $49,920.

SB 188 – The CROWN Act – “Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair” Act Extends Race Discrimination Protections to Hair Associated with Race

SB 188, known as the CROWN Act, amended Section 212.1 of the California Education Code and Section 12926 of the California Government Code to expand the definition of “Race” to include traits historically associated with race.  These include hair texture and “protective hairstyles.”  The term “protective hairstyles” is defined to include, but not limited to, “braids, locks, and twists.”  Accordingly, workplace dress codes and grooming policies may not prohibit such hairstyles.  Otherwise, any such dress codes/grooming policies are deemed discriminatory under the law on the basis of race.

AB 9 – The Statute of Limitations for Filing Complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment Has Been Extended From One Year to Three Years

A current or former employee may file a timely complaint under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) up to three (3) years after the alleged unlawful activity.  Previously, a complainant was required to file a verified complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) within one (1) year from the date upon which the alleged unlawful conduct occurred.  Subject to certain exceptions, AB 9 extended the timeframe to three (3) years.

SB 778 – Harassment-Prevention Training Compliance Deadline Extended to January 1, 2021, for Smaller Employers and Nonsupervisory Employees

FEHA requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide sexual harassment prevention training to all management and supervisory employees within six (6) months of the placement in the management/supervisory position and, in addition, retraining is also required once every two years.

SB 1343, which was passed in the 2017-2018 legislative session, extended training requirements to small employers and to nonsupervisory employees.  More specifically, the bill required that by January 1, 2020, employers with five or more employees provide at least two hours of sexual harassment prevention training to supervisory employees, and at least one hour of sexual harassment prevention training to nonsupervisory employees within six months of their placement in such a position.  SB 778 extends this compliance date to January 1, 2021.  This law clarifies that an employer, which has provided the training in 2019, is covered for two years thereafter.

AB 673 – Employees May Now Recover Statutory Penalties for Employer’s Late Payment of Wages

Previously, Labor Code section 210 provided that only the Labor Commissioner may recover civil penalties for employer violations of Labor Code sections 201.3, 204, 204b, 204.1, 204.2, 205, 205.5, and 1197.5, including the late payment of wages during employment.  AB 673 amended Labor Code section 210 to allow employees to sue employers directly for statutory penalties for violations of the aforementioned Labor Code sections at the following rates:

1) for any initial violation, $100 for each failure to pay each employee; and

2) for each subsequent violation, or any willful or intentional violation, $200 for each failure to pay each employee, plus 25 percent of the amount unlawfully withheld.

AB 673 specifies that an employee may only recover either statutory penalties under Labor Code Section 210, or civil penalties under the Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA) for the same violation(s).  In other words, double recovery of penalties arising from the same Labor Code violation is not permitted.

By: Steven E. Alfieris, Esq.

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