California employment law has become an edifice of complexity -- and like California itself, it undergoes seismic changes with alarming frequency. It is critical that you keep up with these changes to protect your company from unexpected liability because, unsurprisingly, few of the major changes are employer-friendly. Some of the changes appear to have been inspired by the #MeToo movement.
The following are some of the most important changes that took effect in early 2019.
SB 1300 is an amendment to the Fair Housing and Employment Act (FEHA) that allows even a single inappropriate remark to constitute unlawful workplace harassment. Although the amendment seems to be aimed at combating sexual harassment, the harassment complained of need not be sexual in nature to trigger the application of SB 1300.
SB 1343 requires all employers with five or more employees to provide two hours of sexual harassment training to all of their employees.
SB 224 expands sexual harassment prohibitions to cover, not only employers, but also independent contractors, investors, and other people with a relationship to the company’s business.
AB 3109 prevents employers from inserting language into employment contracts and settlement agreements that prevent the employee from testifying in criminal and sexual harassment cases. Note that the employee’s consent to such language is irrelevant; such language is barred even with mutual consent.
SB 820 goes further than AB 3109 by barring employers from inserting language into settlement agreements that prohibits employees from disclosing facts about claims related to sexual misconduct. SB 820 is broader than AB 3109 because it is not limited to employee testimony; it could include private statements to investigators, for example. Like AB 3109, employee consent is irrelevant.
SB 1431 Language is often inserted into severance and settlement agreements, requiring an employee to waive any claims he may have against the employer. Controversy arises when the employee signs the agreement and only later discovers a previously unknown claim against the employer.
Although employers often seek to have the employee waive both “known and unknown claims,” this can only be accomplished by inserting certain statutory language into the agreement. This statutory language has changed in 2019, and employers who fail to take note of it could find themselves facing new claims from former employees months or even years down the road.
SB 826 requires public California companies to include at least one female on their board of directors by December 31, 2020. This requirement rises to two females by 2021 if there are at least five total members on the board of directors, and three if there are at least six total members on the board. Strictly speaking, this is not an employment-related change, but it does indirectly effect on the employer-employee relationship.
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California imposes one of the heaviest regulatory burdens upon businesses of any state, and failing to keep up with what is required of you is a dangerous way to do business. If you have questions about California business law, or if you need to take legislative changes into account with your business planning, call CKB Vienna today or contact us online to schedule a consultation.
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