Although many workers in California may not be working directly with large vats of chemicals,…
With the ushering in of the new year comes the inevitable new laws on California’s books. A bevy of new laws affecting California workers took effect on January 1st; among them are laws that expand workers rights while also placing some new restrictions on employers and businesses.
These laws were met with enthusiasm by the worker’s camp and those who advocate for worker’s rights and with disdain from the business community. A spokesman for the California Labor Federation said of the passage of new worker protections that “California continues to be on the leading edge of delivering economic justice to working people.” By contrast, president of the California Business Roundtable, Rob Lapsley, said of the new laws, “We have some major new laws to contend with that will impact the costs for California businesses.”
Let’s look at what all the buzz is about.
A 2016 law sought to gradually elevate the minimum wage in California to $15 per hour by the year 2023. This year, the pay floor goes from $11 an hour to $12 an hour for businesses who have 25 workers or more. For smaller companies with fewer than 25 employees, the increase goes from the now-rate of $10.50 to $11. This is good news for the estimated 2.3 million California workers who made less than $12 per hour in 2017. Lawmakers hope that this pay increase will help California break out of its tie with Louisiana and Florid for the highest poverty rate in the country.
A long overdue change was made to the regulations for farm worker pay. Under the old law, workers only had to be paid for overtime if they worked more than 10 hours in a shift or 60 hours in a week. Under the new law, workers working 9.5 hours a day or 55 hours a week must receive overtime pay of time-and-a-half. By 2025, farm workers must receive overtime for hours worked in excess of 8 per day or 40 per week.
In an effort to negate the relaxed federal rules for reporting workplace injuries under the Trump administration, California is seeking to tighten its state reporting laws. To accomplish this, the states division of occupational health and safety, Cal/OSHA, will now have five years instead of just six months, to cite employers failing to accurately record worker injuries and deaths. This makes it harder to sweep incidents under the rug, say authorities.
Under SB 820, companies can no longer call for secrecy (usually in the form of nondisclosure agreements prior to settlement) for sexual harassment victims. The victim may still elect to keep their identity private, but companies cannot require them to do so. In another win for victims, SB 1300 reverses the long-standing “one-free grope” definition of sexual harassment, also known as the single-incident exception. There are no more free passes for sexual harassment under the new law.