Busy year for California legislators means employment law changes in 2015

At the beginning of 2015, several significant employment laws will go into effect in California. These laws include mandatory sick leave for workers, anti-discrimination laws, and further damages available for violation of child labor law, among others.

While California is usually at the forefront of worker protection laws, 2014 was unusually active even by the state’s own standards. The new laws aim to help workers who have experienced discrimination or hardship. Many of the bills enacted clarify or expand upon existing worker protections. While many are hopeful the new laws will enhance workplace standards across the state, it remains to be seen how the laws will play out in 2015 and beyond.

Many workers still suffer from employment law violations

Despite protections, workers still often experience employment law violations. For example, a hot topic in California involves the minimum wage. While California’s minimum wage will again increase in 2016, many minimum-wage workers are not receiving their due under the law. According to a study commissioned by the Department of Labor, California workers lose approximately $29 million per week to wage theft. The service industry is particularly hard hit, with restaurant servers, hotel workers, and other employees who work for tips more likely to fail to make minimum wage.

In addition to wage theft, workers still suffer from discrimination, harassment and safety issues. While employers have certain obligations to employees under the law, many employers do not meet these requirements – that is why an experienced employment law attorney can be so beneficial.

Below is a brief overview of the laws going into effect in 2015. Employees who believe they have experienced wage theft, discrimination, or other employment law violation should consult with an experienced attorney at Stephen Danz & Associates to discuss their legal options.

Discrimination and harassment laws

Several laws protecting workers from discrimination will go into effect in 2015. They are:

  • Harassment protection for unpaid interns and volunteers: In 2015, unpaid workers will receive the full benefits of harassment and discrimination protection laws.
  • Anti-discrimination law for workers with undocumented drivers’ licenses: Employees who have a DMV-issued driver’s license issued without legal documentation are now protected from discrimination in the workplace.
  • Abusive conduct prevention training: Employers must include abusive conduct training prevention in addition to the mandatory sexual harassment prevention training already required by law.

Wage and hour laws and leaves of absences

Protecting workers from losing a job because of sick leave, as well as protecting workers from wage theft, was also a priority in 2014. The following laws address this issue:

  • Paid sick leave: Full-time, part-time, temporary, migrant and seasonal employees must all receive paid sick time in 2015, which will accrue at a rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked.
  • Added protection for temporary and contract workers: Employers are now jointly responsible to ensure that contract workers receive minimum wage and workers’ compensation insurance.

Other employment laws

Several other important bills address worker rights became law in 2014, such as:

  • Arbitration agreements for hate crimes: employers will no longer be allows to require arbitration for discrimination claims based on hate crimes.
  • Child labor damages: Employers who retaliate against an employee for alleging a violation of child labor laws are now liable for “treble damages,” or three times the amount of actual money damages inflicted on the employee.