New Year, New Laws for California
For California employers, the start of 2015 brings with it the need to begin complying with many new and expanded laws that the California legislature passed in 2014. Several of the most important provisions for employers are discussed below.
Paid Sick Leave
One of the biggest changes for employers is California’s new requirement to offer paid sick leave to employees. The “Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014” requires all employers to provide at least three days of paid sick leave to all employees who work 30 or more days in California, including part-time and temporary employees.
While accrual and ability to use this sick leave does not start until July 1, 2015, other parts of this law, including the posting and notice requirements, go into effect on January 1, 2015. Employers must notify employees at the time of hire of their rights under the Act and post a state-created poster in the workplace. The required poster (California Paid Sick Days Poster Template) can be found in your HR Support Center under the Forms section of the Essentials tab. Additionally, a more detailed Law Alert on California Paid Sick Leave was sent out this past September and can be found under the Laws tab of your HR Support Center.
For employers with 50 or more employees, California’s requirement to provide managers and supervisors with a biennial, interactive, two-hour training designed to prevent sexual harassment has been in place for many years. However, starting January 1, 2015, this training must include information about “abusive conduct,” which is another term for bullying. Examples of abusive conduct include verbal abuse, derogatory remarks, insults, threats, or the gratuitous sabotage of a person’s work performance. The legislation does not discuss how much of the required training should be spent on covering “abusive conduct” nor does it detail what that coverage should include. Approved trainers should use their discretion to ensure that this topic is adequately covered in all trainings after the first of the year.
Health Care Waiting Periods
The beginning of 2015 is ripe with new health care reform requirements. While the majority of these, such as the implementation of the first phase of the Employer Mandate and the reporting requirements for health coverage, impose additional burdens on employers, the California-specific change actually relaxes an earlier requirement. The previously-in-effect cap of 60 calendar days on waiting limits for otherwise eligible employees to be allowed to join an employer-sponsored health plan will be gone on January 1, 2015. With this requirement removed, employers are permitted to follow the federal waiting period cap of no more than 90 calendar days.
Rest and Recovery Periods
The California legislature clarified existing law regarding payment for recovery periods, making it clear that all required recovery periods are to be treated as hours worked. Employers who provide these cooldown periods in order to prevent heat illness in their employees should ensure that no wage deductions are being made for this time.
Anti-Discrimination Protections for Interns and Volunteers
Previously, the protections of the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) applied to employees and those in training programs that were intended to lead to employment. This legislation expands the protection explicitly to volunteers and unpaid interns. An employer may be liable for conduct of supervisors, employees, or even nonemployees if the employer knew or should have known of the discriminatory actions and failed to take appropriate measures.
Emergency Personnel Leave Protections Expanded
Beginning January 1, 2015, California’s volunteer emergency leave law’s definitions will be expanded to include an officer, employee, or member of a disaster medical response entity sponsored or requested by the State. Employers should ensure that they are using the updated list of covered personnel when making any decisions about granting or denying Emergency Personnel Leave.