2016 Employment Law Update

2016-04-19 00:08
2015 was another busy legislative year for wage and employment related legislation.  From minimum wage to further refining the benefits of employees with regards to their sick leave, nearly every employer is affected by the new laws going into effect on January 1, 2016.

The following is a brief synopsis of the new laws affecting California employers.  Other laws and regulations have been enacted throughout the year, and various courts have clarified and created new legal precedent as well.  The following is not intended to be an exhaustive list of all legal updates.  To determine whether your business has been affected by this or other laws, please contact our office for a individualize assessment of your specific business and employment situation.


Minimum wage is going up on January 1, 2016.  The following table indicates the pay rate and increases applicable to the various areas in and around Los Angeles.  Unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County are listed in the attached geographical list.

Jan. 1, 2016 $10.00 $10.00 $10.00
Jul. 1, 2016 $10.00 $10.50 $10.50
Jul. 1, 2017 $10.00 $12.00 $12.00
Jul. 1, 2018 $10.00 $13.25 $13.25
Jul. 1, 2019 $10.00 $14.25 $14.25
Jul. 1, 2020 $10.00 $15.00 $15.00
 ±  This column only includes Orange County, other incorporated cities in Los Angeles County, Riverside County, and San Bernardino County.  San Diego County has a minimum wage of $10.50 starting 1/1/16 and increases to $11.50 on 1/1/2017.

  Employers with 25 or fewer employers will have 1 additional year to meet these minimum wage standards beginning with $10.50 in Jul. 1, 2017.

  After all employees are being paid $15.00 per hour in the Los Angeles city and unincorporated areas, beginning on Jul.1, 2020, the minimum wage will increase with inflation each year thereafter.


SB579 goes into effect on January 1, 2016 and expands the definitions used in Labor Code §233 (Kin Care Law) to more accurately reflect the recently enacted Paid Sick Leave Law.  Effectively, the language of Labor Code §233 protects employees from retaliation for using paid sick leave to care for family members under the expanded definitions.  Under the expanded definition, use of Kin Care is now protected leave, like the employee’s own sick leave.

While application of the new laws can be complicated where employers provide generous amounts of paid sick leave (10+ days per year), the best practice to comply with this law is to take the following action beginning in 2016.
  • Employees are entitled to take all protected sick leave to care for family or kin;

  • Employers should not demand or require doctor’s certification, notes, or other proof of medical necessity to use protected sick leave;

  • Employee use of protected sick leave should not be counted, factored, or considered with regards to excessive absenteeism determinations, performance evaluations, or otherwise used or referenced in any disciplinary or adverse employment actions; and

  • Employees may use protected sick leave time to handle child-related activities, including finding, enrolling, re-enrolling, or leave related to care provider or school related emergencies (broadly defined to effectively include any unplanned child-related matter).

  • Employers with 25 or more employees cannot retaliate, discriminate or discharge any employee who takes up to 40 hours per year of unpaid time (in addition to paid time off otherwise available) for the purpose of engaging in school related activities, including daycare and other child-related activities.

Employers that grant employees more than 7 sick leave days per year should contact us for an individual consultation to ensure policy compliance.  All clients should update their related policies and procedures to reflect the updated language.


AB1509, effective January 1, 2016, extends the protections for whistleblowers and complainants to their family members.  Thus, the new law states that an employer, or a person acting on behalf of an employer, shall not retaliate against an employee because the employee is a family member of a person who has, or is perceive to have, engaged in any acts protected by the Labor Code.


AB1513 requires that those employees that are compensated by piece-rate to be paid compensation of the higher of the average hourly rate or the applicable minimum wage, dependent upon the circumstances, for all rest and recovery periods and ‘other nonproductive time’ separate and apart from any piece-rate compensation.

The changes to this piece-rate compensation system are complicated.  Any employer that uses a piece-rate compensation system is encourage to immediately seek a review of their employment practices and consultation from our office regarding these new changes during the first two weeks of 2016.


Under AB622, employers cannot use the e-verify system to check the status of existing employees or applicants who have not received an offer of employment, except as required by federal law or as a condition of receiving federal funds.  Failure to comply with this law can result in a penalty of $10,000 per unauthorized use of the e-verify system.


AB987 now makes it unlawful for an employer to retaliate or otherwise discriminate against an employee for ‘requesting’ an accommodation for a disability or religious belief or observance, regardless of whether the request was granted.  The mere act of requesting an accommodation in these instances is now a “protected legal activity.”  Employers should review their procedure and practice for handling accommodation requests to ensure full compliance with this requirement.


Under AB1506, employers who are given notice under PAGA (California’s Private Attorneys General Act of 2004), of violations of various Labor Code violations are granted an opportunity to cure the violations and avoid either partially or entirely the associated penalties.  Under the Act, certain Labor Code provisions were not included in this cure provision.  AB1506 expands the cure provision to include some of those missing Code provisions, including Labor Code 226 requirement of itemized wage statements containing specific information.


Employers in the Healthcare industry subject to Wage Order 5 must now provide meal breaks (or applicable waivers) for employees working over 8 hours under SB327.  This is a complicated new provision only applicable to those industries affected by the Wage Order 5—the Healthcare Industry and related employers.  If you are an employer covered under Wage Order 5, please contact our office for an immediate review of your meal and rest break policies and procedures, and consultation regarding these changes.


Under SB358, the California Fair Pay Act is expanded with a new “substantially similar work” standard, increased wage transparency, additional remedies and penalties, and increased record keeping requirements.  Substantially similar work is now more inclusive and substantially broadens the prior equal work standard to include employees at different facilities, in different job categories, and other factors.  Employers should take the following steps without delay:
  • Conduct a wage audit or review of employee equal pay, including identifying opposite sex pay practices for “substantially similar work”;

  • Review all pay and compensation related policies and procedures for fairness and equality;

  • All employment records should be maintained for no less than 3 years for all employees; modify policies and practices accordingly;

  • Provide internal training for members of management who make decisions regarding employees’ pay and compensation; and

  • Perform the same in conjunction with your attorney to allow for the shield of attorney work-product.

It is relevant to point out that California has and continues to have a strict prohibition against any employer policy or procedure that would prevent or otherwise discourage or prevent employees from disclosing, discussing or asking other employees about their wages, or aiding and encouraging employees to exercise their rights under the Act.
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