Question:

It seems like the employment laws changed each year under Governor Davis. I find it very difficult to stay on top of all the changes. Is there any chance that this trend will slow down under our new Governor?

Answer:

You are correct. There have been a number of significant changes in the laws governing the workplace. It is too early to tell what bills will be passed by the Legislature and eventually signed or vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger. However, February 20, 2004 was the deadline for our elected officials to introduce bills for consideration by their colleagues and numerous bills have been introduced that, if passed and signed by the Governor, will affect employment relations.

For example, the following proposed bills address discrimination and harassment in the workplace.

AB 1825 (Reyes). This bill would add several new requirements for employers under the Fair Employment and Housing Act. It would require employers with 50 or more employees to provide 2 hours of sexual harassment training and education to all supervisory employees within one year of January 1, 2005 and to all new supervisory employees within six months of their assumption of a supervisory position, unless the employer has provided sexual harassment training and education to employees after January 1, 2004. The bill would also expand the posting requirements of FEHA by requiring that employers with 3 or more employees post information concerning the illegality of sexual harassment and the remedies available to victims. Current posting requirements apply to employers with five (5) or more employees.

AB 2317 (Oropeza). Section 1197.5 of the Labor Code currently prohibits employers from paying an employee at a wage rate less than the rates paid to employees of the opposite sex in the same establishment for equal work on jobs that require equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions, except where the payment differential is made pursuant to a bona fide factor other than sex. This bill would increase the damages allowed to three times the employee’s lost wages. It would also impose damages of up to five times the employee’s actual damages if the violation of law is willful.

AB 1229 (Simitian). This bill would provide that an employer who grants an employment opportunity or benefit to an employee because he or she submits to the employer’s sexual advances or requests for sexual favors may be held liable for unlawful sexual discrimination against other persons who were qualified for, but denied that employment opportunity or benefit, except where the employer and the employee who was granted the opportunity or benefit are married, engaged to be married, registered as domestic partners pursuant to section 297 of the Family Code, or cohabitants as defined in section 6209 of the Family Code.

If you have strong feelings about any of these proposed bills, it is important that you make them known to your elected officials throughout the legislative process. Updates on these and other bills can be obtained online at www.leginfo.ca.gov.
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