Question:

I have not heard much about the new laws that will affect employers next year. Are there any new laws employers should be aware of?

Answer:

Of the hundreds of bills that were proposed in the most recent legislative session, very few were passed that affect employers. However, there are some interesting new laws that were passed, and many cases that affect the workplace. Some of the new laws recently passed include:

  • Unpaid leave for military spouses- AB 392. This bill applies to employers with 25 or more employees. It applies to an employee who works an average of 20 or more hours per week, and is the spouse or registered domestic partner of a member of the Armed Forces of the United States who has been deployed during a period of military conflict to an area designated as a combat theater or combat zone by the President of the United States; or a member of the National Guard or Reserves who has been deployed during a period of military conflict. The employee is allowed to take up to 10 days of unpaid leave during the time the employee’s spouse or registered domestic partner is on leave from deployment during a period of military conflict. This bill was effective October 9, 2007.
  • Decrease in the minimum hourly wage for exempt computer software employees – S.B. 929. This bill reduces the minimum hourly rate that must be paid to an exempt computer software employee from $41 to $36 per hour.
  • Discrimination based on sexual orientation- SB 1441. This bill amends Section 11135 of the Government Code, and prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in any program or activity conducted, operated, or administered by the state, or by any state agency, or that is funded directly by the state, or that receives any financial assistance from the state. Sexual orientation is defined in this bill to mean “heterosexuality, homosexuality, and bisexuality.”
  • Sexual harassment prevention training- AB 2095. The Fair Employment and Housing Commission has promulgated regulations to clarify areas of AB 2095, which requires that all employers with 50 or more employees provide at least 2 hours of sexual harassment prevention training to all supervisory employees by January 2006, and repeat the training every 2 years. The regulations clarify who qualifies as a trainer, and the content of the training. They also state that for purposes of determining if an employer has 50 employees, employees working outside of California are counted, but only the supervisors in California are legally required to have training. The regulations clarify that employers can use individual tracking, or a training year tracking method, to make sure their supervisors receive training every two years.
  • Cell phone use- SB 1613 and SB 33. Beginning July 1, 2008, adults are prohibited from using wireless telephones while driving, unless the phone is configured for hands free use. Also effective July 1, 2008, persons under age 18 are prohibited from using wireless telephones while driving, even if the phone is configured for hands free use. These prohibitions do not apply to any person using a wireless telephone for emergency purposes. The penalty under both laws is $20 for the first violation, and $50 for each subsequent violation.
  • Tripling of workers’ compensation premiums for employers that fail to cooperate with workers’ compensation insurers’ payroll audit requests- A.B. 812. Under current law, workers’ compensation insurers generally perform a payroll verification audit to compare the actual premium to the estimated premium. The employer usually supplies the payroll information. This law states that if an employer fails to allow the insurer or its authorized representative access to its records to enable the insurer to perform an audit, the employer must pay the insurer a total premium for the policy equal to 3 times the insurer’s then-current estimate of the annual premium on the expiration date of the policy.
  • Workers’ compensation- report of unlawfully uninsured employers- SB 869. The Labor Commissioner has a program that targets employers in industries with the highest incidence of unlawfully uninsured employers, and it prepares a report for the Legislature. This new law requires the report to be posted on the Labor Commissioner’s website.

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