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New California Employment Laws for 2013

Several new laws apply to California employers in 2013:

AB 1844: Social Media
Prohibits employers from requiring or asking employees or applicants to: (1) disclose social media user names or passwords; (2) access social media in the employer’s presence; or (3) divulge social media information, except when investigating misconduct or illegal activity. Prohibits employers from retaliating against employees or applicants regarding social media rights.

AB 1964: Religious Dress and Grooming
Amends the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) to require accommodation of employees’ religious dress and grooming, including clothing, head or face coverings, jewelry, artifacts, and head, facial, and body hair. Accommodation is unreasonable if it requires segregating the employee. An employer can avoid accommodation only when it entails significant difficulty or expense.

AB 2386: Breast-Feeding Discrimination
Amends FEHA to define “sex” to include breast-feeding and related medical conditions.

AB 2492: Whistleblowers
Amends the California False Claims Act (CFCA), which protects employees who oppose or report fraud in government contracts. Expands protection to include contractors and agents, expands the definition of false claims, amends the statute of limitations, and increase attorney’s fees and penalties.

AB 2674: Employment Records Inspection
Requires employers to maintain personnel records for three years and to make them available to current and former employees within 30 days from the date of a written request. Employers must provide records request forms. The date may be extended by agreement not to exceed 35 days. Records may be inspected by the employee or the employee’s representative. Employers must provide a copy at a charge not to exceed the cost of copying. Employers may redact names of non-supervisory employees. Employers must comply with requests from former employees only once per year. Employers are not required to comply with more than 50 requests per month. The right to inspect and copy ceases during an employee’s lawsuit. Violations can result in a $750 penalty, injunctive relief, and attorney’s fees. Impossibility of performance is a defense.

SB 863: Workers’ Compensation Reform
Reforms provider networks, bill reviews, liens, fee schedules, medical care, permanent disability claims, and return-to-work rules. Eliminates permanent disability claims regarding sleep disorders, sexual dysfunction, and other psychological issues. Independent experts will issue binding decisions in coverage disputes with limited appeals.

AB 1744: Temporary Services Employers Wage Information
Temporary services employers must provide rate of pay and total hours worked for each assignment and effective July 1, 2013, must provide, in addition to other information required under Labor Code Section 2810.5, the name, physical and mailing address and telephone number of the office of the legal entity for whom the employee will work.

AB 2103: Fixed salaries and Overtime
Payment of a fixed salary to a non-exempt employee will be deemed payment only for the employee’s regular non-overtime hours, regardless of any contrary agreement between employer and employee.

AB 2675: Commission Contracts
In 2011, California passed a law requiring commission agreements to be in writing effective 1/1/13.  This bill amends that law to exempt temporary, variable incentive payments that increase, but do not decrease, commission payments.

SB 1255: Wage Statements
Provides that employees are “injured” by non-complaint wage statements, for purposes of Labor Code Section 226 penalties, if the employer fails to provide a wage statement or fails to provide an accurate and complete wage statement from which the employee can determine the amount of gross or net wages, name and address of the employer, name of the employee, only the last 4 digits of the employee’s social security number or an employee identification number other than a social security number, and other information required under Section 226.

SB 1186: Disability Access Reform
Bans pre-litigation monetary demand letters for alleged disability access violations. Requires attorneys to send notice letter listing alleged violations 30 days before suing. Requires plaintiffs to verify disability access complaints under penalty of perjury. Requires plaintiffs to set forth facts sufficient to notify businesses of alleged barriers, how alleged barriers denied access, and dates denial occurred. Reduces minimum $4,000 statutory damages award when a business has relied on a certified access specialist report, or similar report, and repairs violations within 60 days of service of the complaint, or seeks to repair within 30 days of service. Requires plaintiffs to explain multiple visits to the same location. Requires landlords to disclose whether buildings or properties are in compliance.

This article is not offered as, and should not be relied on as, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice in specific situations.