New Employment Laws Better Protect Workers in California, Create Compliance Challenges

A significant expansion of the California’s sexual harassment prevention law, a first-of-its-kind diversity law, salary history ban, and new minimum wage increases are among a host of dizzying new employment law changes in the Golden State for 2019, says a new XpertHR report.

Not only are the changes relevant to companies headquartered in California but they apply to multistate employers doing business there as well.

The #MeToo movement has sparked expanded sexual harassment laws, which make it illegal for California employers to ban workers from disclosing sexual harassment and participating in a discrimination or harassment investigation.

California also has expanded its anti-sexual harassment training requirements from covering employers with 50 or more employees to mandating it for employers with five or more employees. Previously, the training was required only for managers and supervisors. But now it is required for all employees, including temporary and seasonal employees, and must be repeated every two years.

Breaking New Ground in the Boardroom

California has become the first state to require publicly-held corporations that are headquartered in the state to have at least one woman on their board of directors. The new law includes steep penalty provisions and could affect hundreds of employers.

Companies have until December 31, 2019, to comply. But the novel law includes additional compliance requirements by the close of 2021, including if there are:
•       Six or more directors, the corporation must have at least three female directors;
•       Five directors, the corporation must have at least two female directors; and
•       Four or fewer directors, at least one female director.

“Nearly 30% of 642 publicly-traded California-based companies examined by Board Governance Research will have to add a female director this year to comply with the law,” says David Weisenfeld, JD, Legal Editor, XpertHR. Companies with higher levels of gender diversity were found to have stronger financial performance, stronger governance practices and a more engaged workforce.

Clarifying Salary History Question Ban

California has amended its 2018 salary history question ban to allow employers to ask about a job applicant’s “salary expectations” and to clarify when a job applicant may inquire about an employer’s pay scale. The amendments address unanswered questions, including who qualifies as an applicant. The current law says an employer must provide, upon reasonable request, an applicant with the pay scale for the position sought after one job interview.

What’s Next

In the immediate future, the following California municipalities are slated for varying minimum wage increases (ranging from $13.25 to $15.69) effective July 1:

•       Alameda;
•       Berkeley;
•       Emeryville;
•       Fremont;
•       Los Angeles;
•       Los Angeles County;
•       Malibu;
•       Milpitas;
•       San Francisco;
•       San Leandro; and
•       Santa Monica.

“California employers seemingly need a scorecard each year to keep up with all of the employment law changes afoot, but this is especially true in 2019,” says Weisenfeld. “Multistate employers with offices in California need to be comply with these updated laws and be aware of changes that are on the horizon as well.”

To download XpertHR’s new California Compliance Checklist, visit XpertHR.

XpertHR, a leading provider of HR compliance, tools and best practice guidance, has opened a new office in Los Angeles to serve hundreds of West Coast employers who need to comply with a plethora of complex new state and local labor and employment laws. The office can be reached at salesusa@xperthr.com.


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