Employee Handbook

2019 Law Updates

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California’s minimum wage: As of January 1, 2019, the minimum wage in California increased. With the increase in the state minimum wage, there is a corresponding raise in the minimum salary required to qualify as exempt under the “white collar” exemptions.

Employers with 25 or fewer employees:

  • New Employee Hourly Wage: $11.00 per hour

  • Minimum Salary for Exempt Employees: $45,769

Employees with 26 or more employees:

  • New Employee Hourly Wage: $12.00 per hour

  • New Minimum Salary for Exempt Employees: $49,920

SB 1343 (Sexual Harassment Training):  Existing law requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide supervisors with sexual harassment training.  This new law expands the training requirement to employers with 5 or more employees and requires that employers provide at least 2 hours of training to supervisory employees and at least one hour of training to non-supervisory employees by January 1, 2020 and once every two years thereafter.  It also requires the DFEH to develop and post training materials for employers to use for these purposes.

SB 1300 (FEHA Amendments):  This bill amends FEHA in a number of respects, including (1) to add a provision making it an unlawful practice for an employer to require an employee to release a FEHA claim in exchange for a bonus, raise, or continued employment; (2) to make employers liable for any kind of unlawful harassment by non-employees (not just for sexual harassment as under existing law) where the employer knew or should have known of the harassment and failed to take appropriate remedial action; and (3) to add certain statements of legislative intent to make it harder for employers to prevail on harassment claims (e.g. a legislative declaration that harassment cases are rarely appropriate for resolution on summary judgment, and a declaration that a single act of harassment may suffice to support a finding of a hostile work environment).

SB 1976 (Lactation Accommodation):  This new law makes changes to existing lactation accommodation law.  The existing law requires employers to make reasonable efforts to provide a location other than a toilet stall to be used for lactation.  The new law specifies that the location should be something other than a bathroom and further specifies that it generally should be a permanent location but that it can be a temporary location if (1) the employer is unable to provide a permanent location due to operational, financial, or space limitations; (2) the temporary location is private and free from intrusion while being used for lactation purposes; and (3) the temporary location is not used for other purposes while being used for lactation.  The new law also provides that an agricultural employer may comply by allowing an employee to use the air-conditioned cab of a tractor or truck.  If an employer can prove that it is an undue hardship to comply with these requirements, the employer may be able to provide a location (including a bathroom) other than a toilet stall for the employee to use for lactation purposes.

Mileage Reimbursements- The Internal Revenue Service issued the 2019 optional standard mileage rates used to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical or moving purposes. Beginning on Jan. 1, 2019, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) will be:

  • 58 cents per mile driven for business use, up 3.5 cents from the rate for 2018,

  • 20 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes, up 2 cents from the rate for 2018, and

  • 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations.

SB 1412 (Criminal History Inquiries):  This bill amends Labor Code section 432.7, which limits employers’ ability to conduct criminal history inquiries and to use criminal history information in employment decisions.  Existing law makes an exception for employers who are required by federal or state law to inquire into an applicant’s or employee’s criminal history.  The amendment is intended to tighten the exception to apply only where an employer is required by law to inquire into a “particular conviction” or where an employer cannot by law hire someone with a “particular conviction.”  to make clear that employers may only consider “particular convictions” when assessing criminal history.  “Particular conviction” is defined only to mean “a conviction for specific criminal conduct or a category of criminal offenses prescribed by any federal law, federal regulation or state law that contains requirements, exclusions, or both, expressly based on that specific criminal conduct or category of criminal offenses.” 

SB 1252 (Copy of Payroll Records):  Existing law already requires that employees have a right to inspect or copy their payroll records and that they must be allowed to do so within 21 days of such a request.  This new law clarifies that if an employee requests a copy of the records, the employer must provide the copies (as opposed to requiring employees to copy the records themselves).

AB 1565 (Contractor Liability):  This new law took effect immediately as urgency legislation. It clarifies a new law enacted last year making certain direct contractors performing work in the state liable for unpaid wages by subcontractors.  The amendments to the law provide requirements that must be met in order for a direct contractor to withhold payments to a subcontractor for “disputed sums.”  In order to withhold payment, the contractor must specify in its contract with a subcontractor all items of information that will be requested of the subcontractor, such as payroll records and other information related to hours worked, etc.

AB 3109 (Disclosure of Sexual Harassment):  This bill makes void and unenforceable any provision in a contract or settlement agreement that prevents a party to the contract from testifying about criminal conduct or sexual harassment in an administrative, legislative, or judicial proceeding. 

SB 224 (Sexual Harassment):  This bill amends section 51.9 of the Civil Code to expand the types of relationships that can be subject to a claim for sexual harassment to include lobbyists, elected officials, directors, producers, and investors.  This statute generally applies to work relationships where one person holds himself out as being able to help someone establish a business or professional relationship directly or with a third party.  

SB 820 (Settlement of Sexual Harassment Claims):  This new law prohibits provisions in settlement agreements entered into after January 1, 2019 that prevent disclosure of factual information pertaining to claims of sexual assault, sexual harassment, gender discrimination or related retaliation that have been filed in court or before an administrative agency.  The new law does not prohibit a provision that prevents the parties to the agreement from disclosing the amount of the settlement.  Additionally, at the claimant’ request, the settlement agreement may include a provision that limits the disclosure of the claimant’s identity or of facts that would lead to the discovery of the claimant’s identity.

SB 1123 (Paid Family Leave Uses):  California has a paid family leave program that provides partial wage replacement to employees who take leaves of absence for specified purposes.  This new law expands the program to provide paid family leave benefits beginning January 1, 2021 to employees who take time off for reasons associated with being called to active duty or a spouse, domestic partner, parent, or child being called to active duty.

AB 2034 (Human Trafficking):  This new law requires employers who operate an intercity passenger rail, light rail, or bus station to provide by January 1, 2021 at least 20 minutes of training on human trafficking awareness to employees who are likely to come into contact with human trafficking victims.

SB 970 (Human Trafficking):  This new law amends FEHA to require hotel and motel employers, by January 1, 2020, to provide at least 20 minutes of training on human trafficking awareness to employees who are likely to come into contact with victims of human trafficking.  These employees include reception employees, housekeeping employees, bell desk employees, and other employees who regularly interact with customers.  The new law requires covered employers to provide such training to covered employees within 6 months of hire and once every two years thereafter.

AB 1654 (PAGA Relief for Unionized Construction Employers):  This new law provides that unionized workers in the construction industry are not covered by PAGA (i.e. they cannot bring PAGA claims), provided that the CBA (1) is entered into prior to January 1, 2025; (2) provides for the wages, hours of work, and working conditions of employees, premium wage rates for all overtime hours worked, and for the employee to receive a regular hourly pay rate of not less than 30 percent more than the state minimum wage rate; (3) prohibits all of the violations of the Labor Code that normally would be addressable under PAGA; (4) provides for a grievance and binding arbitration procedure to redress those violations and authorizes the arbitrator to award any and all remedies otherwise available under the Labor Code (except PAGA remedies); and (5) expressly waives PAGA rights. 

SB 826 (Gender Composition of Boards of Directors):  This new law provides for mandatory inclusion of women on corporate boards of directors.  Specifically, by the end of 2019, publicly held domestic or foreign corporations with principal executive offices in California must have a minimum of one female director on its board, and by the end of 2021, these corporations must comply with the following: (1) If its number of directors is six or more, the corporation shall have a minimum of three female directors; (2) If its number of directors is five, the corporation shall have a minimum of two female directors; (3) If its number of directors is four or fewer, the corporation shall have a minimum of one female director. 

Five Things You Should Know About Holidays and Holiday Pay In California

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1. California employers are not required to provide employees time off for holidays.

 There is no requirement that California employers provide time off (except for religious accommodations, - see below) for holidays. California's DLSE's website states the following: Hours worked on holidays, Saturdays, and Sundays are treated like hours worked on any other day of the week. California law does not require that an employer provide its employees with paid holidays, that it close its business on any holiday, or that employees be given the day off for any particular holiday. 

2. California employers are not required to pay for time off for holidays, nor are they required to pay additional wages if employees work on holidays.

Likewise, there is no requirement that employers pay employees extra pay or "holiday pay" for work performed on holidays. Employers can voluntarily agree to pay employees extra pay for work that is required during holidays, but these terms would be governed by policy set forth by the employer. Therefore, employers are urged to make sure their holiday pay policies are clearly set forth. California's legislature has proposed bills that would require certain employers to pay employees double time for work done on Thanksgiving, but none of these bills have become law. For example, the "Double Pay on the Holiday Act of 2016" proposed to require an employer to pay at least 2 times the regular rate of pay to employees at retail and grocery store establishments on Thanksgiving. None of these attempts by the legislature have been successful yet in requiring California employers to pay any extra "holiday pay."

3. Employers must provide reasonable accommodations for employees who cannot work on certain holidays due to religious observances.

Employers need to be aware of any religious observances of their employees since employers need to provide reasonable accommodations for employees due to religious reasons. The analysis of reasonable accommodation is required is a case by case analysis based on the company's type of business and the accommodation requested by the employee. If the employer's operations require employees to work during normally recognized holidays, such as a restaurant, then this should be communicated to employees in the handbook or other policies and set the expectation that an essential function of the job requires work during normal holidays.

4. If an employer does pay for time off during holidays, the employer does not have to allow employees to accrue holiday paid time off.

If an employee leaves employment before the holiday arrives, the employer is not required to pay the employee for the day off. However, the employer's policy regarding holiday pay must clearly set out that this benefit does not accrue to employees and that they must be employed during the specific holidays to receive the holiday pay. Often the employer will also require that the employee works the days leading up to and following the holiday in order be eligible for the holiday pay.

5. If a pay day falls on certain holidays, and the employer is closed, the employer may process payroll on the next business day.

If an employer is closed on holidays listed in the California Government Code, then the employer may pay wages on the next business days. The DLSE's website explains this, and other considerations, for the timing requirements for payroll. 

The holidays listed in the Government Code are as follows:

 

January 1 - New Year's Day

Third Monday in January - Martin Luther King Jr. Day

February 12 - Lincoln's Birthday

Third Monday in February - Washington's Birthday

Last Monday in May - Memorial Day

July 4 - Independence Day

First Monday in September - Labor Day

Second Monday in October - Columbus Day

November 11 - Veterans Day

Fourth Thursday in November - Thanksgiving Day

Day after Thanksgiving

December 25 - Christmas

4 Ways to Make Your Employee Handbook More Effective

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Your company’s employee handbook is one of its most important documents. From directly communicating your expectations and requirements to employees to giving staff a blueprint for success, an employee handbook has several goals to achieve.

The primary goal of your employee handbook is to ensure that everyone that’s part of your company or organization, from managers to new hires, is on the same page with regards to conduct, goals and culture.

Sounds challenging, doesn’t it? With the right strategy and techniques, it’s possible for your company to create a fantastic employee handbook. Read on to learn four ways to make your company’s handbook significantly more effective.

1. Keep it simple, straightforward and accessible. 

Many companies make the mistake of making their employee handbooks as dense and comprehensive as possible. This, unfortunately, often means listing rule after rule in dense, challenging language, with little readable content in between.

Your employee handbook needs to clearly establish your rules and expectations, but it also needs to be readable. Dense, complex legal language is far more likely to turn employees away than encourage them to continue reading.

Make sure your employee handbook contains all of the information that employees need to know, but don’t overdo the complexity. Keep it simply, straightforward and accessible and you’ll find it far easier to effectively communicate with your staff.

2. Create a clear code of conduct for employees. 

Does your employee handbook include a code of conduct? Your company’s code of conduct is one of the most important elements of its employee handbook, giving it an in-depth listing of behavioral and ethical expectations for its employees.

Start creating your employee handbook by establishing a clear code of conduct for your employees to follow. Offer detailed information on all relevant aspects of at-work behavior and conduct so that your company’s expectations are clear.

Clear, straightforward communication of your company’s conduct expectations is the key to creating a productive, effective workplace in which every individual has an excellent understanding of what is and isn’t okay.

3. Don’t keep it static – revise and update over time. 

As time goes on and your business grows larger and more successful, you may need to update your employee handbook to cover new expectations, practices and other information.

This means dedicating time to revisiting your employee handbook and making all of the necessary revisions on a frequent basis. Once per year is a great goal to aim for – a schedule that allows your employee handbook to adapt alongside your business.

Updating your employee handbook on a frequent, consistent schedule also makes it easier to incorporate changes to HR regulations and law into your handbook, giving your company the protection it needs against lawsuits and other legal action.

4. Double check everything with your legal department. 

Since your company’s employee handbook is an important document that outlines your conduct and behavior expectations, it needs to comply with all relevant laws that govern your company’s conduct.

Before publishing your employee handbook – or releasing an updated version after making changes to its content – ensure it’s checked in detail by your company’s legal team to make sure it’s compliant with the law.

If your company doesn’t have an in-house legal department, hire a professional to review your employee handbook. Although there are costs associated with getting expert legal advice, they’re small in comparison to the cost of a serious lawsuit.