During 2016, the California legislature passed a number of significant laws that affect most Golden State employers. Virtually all the changes take effect January 1, 2017 and it is, therefore, important that California businesses review their employment policies and procedures to make certain that they comply with the new law. While there may be additional laws and regulations that affect your particular service or industry, the following is a brief review of five important employment-related provisions.

Increase in Minimum Wage

While the national debate as to the appropriate level of the minimum continues, California has jumped out ahead with a multi-step increase. SB 3 increases the state’s minimum wage each January 1 from 2017 through 2022 (or 2023 for employers with less than 26 employees). Effective January 1, 2017, the new minimum wage is $10.50 per hour. Employers should also recognize that this increase has other effects, as well. For example, in California, in order to qualify as an “exempt” employee, the worker must earn at least twice the state minimum wage for full-time employment (40 hours each week). The new threshold for exempt employees is now $43,680.

Expansion of California’s Equal Pay Act

Two separate bills passed by the 2016 Legislature – AB 1676 and SB 1063 – work together to expand the California Equal Pay Act so as to: (i) Eliminate prior salary as a bona fide exception to equal pay based on gender, and (ii) prohibit employers from paying employees of a different race or ethnicity different rates for substantially similar work.

Out-of-State Arbitration

Employee groups point to the passage of SB 1241 as one of the most important pieces of worker legislation in years. Generally speaking, the new law provides that employees who work and reside primarily in California may not be required to adjudicate employment-related claims outside the Golden State, nor can they be required to adjudicate claims using the law of another state even if the claim is filed in California. Employers should take care that their post-January 2017 employment agreements comply with the new law. The law specifically applies to arbitration clauses.

Workplace Smoking

ABx2 6 expanded workplace smoking restrictions so as to expand the definition of “smoking” to include “the use of an electronic smoking device that creates an aerosol or vapor, in any manner or in any form, or the use of any oral smoking device for the purpose of circumventing the prohibition of smoking.” E-cigarettes are, therefore, now viewed on the same basis as actual tobacco cigarettes.

All-Gender Rest Rooms

AB 1732 requires all single-user toilet facilities in any business establishment, place of public accommodation, or government agency, be clearly identified and designated as all-gender toilet facilities. The provision actually takes effect March 1, 2017.

Is it Time to Review Your Employment Practices?

Leaders in many California businesses are making New Year resolutions that include a serious review of the firm’s HR practices. There is no time like now to assure yourself and your business that your personnel policies are adequate and up to date. Retaining experienced outside counsel is generally a key to best practices in personnel law. For years now, CKB VIENNA LLP has represented all sorts of businesses in employment law matters. Our team understands the complexity of the issues and stands ready to represent you aggressively. We have offices in Rancho Cucamonga, San Bernardino, and Los Angeles. Contact us by telephone – 909.980.1040 – or complete our online form.