Question:

Has the Governor signed any new legislation affecting employers? I heard that he vowed to not sign any new laws until the State Legislature reaches a budget agreement.

Answer:

Although the Governor pledged to not sign any new laws until a budget agreement is reached, two new wage and hour laws snuck through before he made that vow, and those will take effect on January 1, 2009.

One of those new laws concerns payment to temporary workers. Under California law, when an employee is involuntarily terminated, the employer must issue the employee’s final check on his or her last day of work. Two years ago, the California Supreme Court held that this rule applied even when a temporary worker, who might receive future assignments, worked a one-day assignment. But the new law clarifies that the end of a temporary assignment for a temporary worker does not qualify as a termination or discharge of the employee, and therefore, final wages are not due at the end of such an assignment. Nevertheless, the old rule applies when temporary workers are discharged permanently, rather than in between assignments. If the employee is involuntarily terminated, he or she must be paid immediately at the time of termination. If he or she resigns, the employer must pay the employee within 72 hours of his or her final day or on the last day of work, whichever is later. As in the case of all other employees, if the employer does not timely pay, it may be subject to a penalty of up to 30 days of the employee’s daily wages.

In addition to clarifying when final pay is due to temporary workers, the new law provides new protections for temporary workers. It sets forth that employers must pay temporary workers weekly and no later than the regular payday of the calendar week following the performance of services. Temporary workers who are non-clerical and are assigned to a client on a day-to-day basis, which means that they report to the agency in the morning before going to the client’s workplace, or they report back to the agency at the end of the day, must be paid on a daily basis. The daily pay requirement also applies to temporary workers who are assigned to a client in a trade dispute on a daily basis.

Temporary staffing services should review their pay practices and ensure that they are in compliance with this new law.

In addition to the law concerning temporary workers, the Governor also signed a bill concerning falsification of timesheets. This law addresses situations in which employers have required their employees to sign timecards which reflect fewer hours than those actually worked, and/or which reflect that employees have been provided with meal and rest periods when, in fact, they have not. Under the new law, as of January 1, 2009, it will be illegal for an employer to require an employee, as a condition of being paid, to sign a false statement of hours worked. A violation of this law is a misdemeanor.

With this new law in place, if an employee claims that the hours on his or her timesheet are not accurate, the employer must be sure to investigate such a claim. If employees feel that they will not be paid until they sign their time cards, and end up signing time cards that do not accurately reflect hours worked, the employer could face criminal liability.

These two new laws only reflect legislation affecting employers that was passed before the Governor pledged to not sign any more new laws. Once a budget agreement is passed, you should expect to see other new laws that will affect employers that will go into effect in 2009.
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