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We want to wish you all a happy and healthy New Year. Please be safe out there and remember, don’t take the breathalyzer in California. As we leave one year, the great state of California has some important changes coming in 2015. Today we will focus on some of the new law bound to have an impact on businesses, employers and employees  in 2015. Below is a summary of some of the major changes that affect a wide swath of businesses. Later this week, we will look at some changes in criminal law for 2015.

<strong><span style=”text-decoration:underline;”>Paid Sick Leave</span></strong>
Effective July 1, 2015 employers will have to offer employees up to three paid sick days a year. The law exempts some in-home care workers. Employees will begin accruing the mandatory paid sick leave at the rate of one hour of leave for every 30 hours of work, up to 24 hours of sick leave. Employees will be allowed to take the sick leave after 90 days on the job. This means that employers must be extra diligent about monitoring hours and leave accrued. Because, we assure you, somebody else will.

<strong><span style=”text-decoration:underline;”>Expansion of Mandatory Harassment Training</span>
</strong>As a result of California AB 2053, Employers that are subject to mandatory sexual harassment training (employers with 50 or more employees) will now also need to add training about “abusive conduct” to prevent cases of workplace bullying. The statute defines <strong>”abusive conduct”</strong> as conduct of an employer or employee in the workplace, with malice, that a reasonable person would find hostile, offensive, and unrelated to an employer’s legitimate business interests. This may include repeated infliction of verbal abuse, such as the use of derogatory remarks, insults, and epithets, verbal or physical conduct that a reasonable person would find threatening, intimidating, or humiliating, or the gratuitous sabotage or undermining of a person’s work performance. Under the law,  a single act shall not constitute abusive conduct, unless especially severe and egregious. This should serve as a warning for employers to nip the conduct in the bud, so to speak, as quickly possible. Now is the time to review and revise all training materials for employers subject to this rule.

<span style=”text-decoration:underline;”><strong>Expansion of Sexual Harassment training to Farm Laborers</strong></span>
A separate law will also add farm labor contractors to the list of employers that must conduct mandatory sexual harassment training, including the new “abusive conduct” curriculum. This applies regardless of size. So any of these middlemen who provide farm laborers will need to provide this training and know the rules because it is now part of the Contractors’ Licensing Exam.
<span style=”text-decoration:underline;”><strong>Expanded Protections for Unpaid Volunteers and Interns</strong></span>
The extensive protections of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) now applies to volunteers and interns as well. This will allow people to sue for discrimination, even if they are not a paid employee. This also requires the employer to make reasonable religious accommodations to volunteers and interns, or anyone else receiving unpaid work experience.

<span style=”text-decoration:underline;”><strong>Ban on Plastic Bags</strong></span>
The ban on plastic bags will initially extend to supermarkets and large pharmacies, but will eventually grow to also include convenience stores. Consumers will be able to buy paper bags for a maximum of ten cents a piece if they do not have their own reusable bags. At this point, people should get accustomed to buying their own bags because inside of a decade, few stores will be providing bags.

<span style=”text-decoration:underline;”><strong>Expansion of Prohibition Against Immigration Retaliation Claims</strong></span>

Unfair immigration discrimination practices will now include filing or threatening to file false reports with any state or federal agency. This also clarifies that employees cannot retaliate against employees making lawful changes to legal names and social security numbers.

<span style=”text-decoration:underline;”><strong>Prohibition Against Discrimination Against Public Assistance Recipients</strong></span>
This law is an interesting twist. Historically, it has always been legal to discriminate against the poor. This changes things a bit because it adds people receiving public assistance, particularly Medi-Cal, to the list of employees protected against discrimination and retaliation by employers.

<span style=”text-decoration:underline;”><strong>Increased Liability For Employers Using Contract Labor</strong>

</span>Employers will now be liable for wage and hour violations even when using employees provided by a contractor or staffing agency. If the contractor fails to provide proper payment or even worker’s compensation coverage, the business using the contracted labor will be liable to the employee and to agencies issuing fines and penalties. When using such agencies, businesses should now be revising their agreements to indemnify themselves or include provisions that will force the agencies to properly record, pay, and report.

So as we head into 2015, know your duties and your rights. After all, it is your business.

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