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Rules Affecting California Employers in 2019

Happy New Year! Below is a summary of the 2019 changes that will affect California employers.

California Minimum Wage Increasing

California minimum wage increases on January 1, 2019, to $12 per hour for employers with 26 or more employees, and to $11.00 an hour for employers with 25 or fewer employees. A new minimum wage poster has been released and is included with this update.  Please ensure that you post it.

The increases apply to exempt employees as well.  An exempt employee, in addition to meeting exempt duties requirements, must be paid a weekly salary of no less than $960 weekly, $4,160 monthly, and $49,920 annually (for employers with 26 or more employees).

Lactation Accommodation

Under current state law, an employer must provide a location other than a toilet stall for an employee to express breast milk.  The location must also be private and in close proximity to the employee’s work area.  Effective January 1, 2019, the law now requires that the employer provide a location other than a bathroom or a toilet stall.

Employers cannot designate a bathroom as a designated space to express breast milk.

Salary History

This new change has offered some guidance to changes made last year in 2018, regarding the ban on salary history and inquiries and the requirement to provide pay scales to applicants.

The Labor Code will now specify that employers may inquire about an applicant’s salary expectations for the position being applied for.  Only external applicants (not current employees/internal applicants) are entitled to pay scale upon request but only after completing an initial interview.  The pay scale provided only needs to include salary or hourly wage ranges.

Confidentiality Clauses in Settlement Agreements (Senate Bill 820)

This law expands the types of cases in which “secret settlements” are restricted.  It prohibits any settlement agreement in a case where sexual harassment, assault, or discrimination has been alleged from including a confidentiality provision that prohibits disclosure of factual information regarding the claim, except with regard to the claimant’s identity (so long as they are not a government agency or public official).

This change will prohibit and make void any provision that prevents the disclosure of information related to civil or administrative complaints of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and workplace harassment or discrimination based on sex.

Women on Boards (Senate Bill 826)

This law requires California-based publicly held corporations to have on their board of directors at least one female— females are defined as people who self-identify as women, regardless of their designated sex at birth. A corporation may need to increase its authorized number of directors to comply with this requirement. The bill imposes minimum seat requirements that must be filled by women, proportional to the total number of seats, by December 31, 2021.

The Secretary of State must publish a report by July 1, 2019, of the number of corporations whose principal executive offices are in California and have at least one female director and an annual report beginning March 1, 2020, detailing the number of corporations that (1) complied with requirements in 2019, (2) moved their headquarters in or out of California, and (3) were subject to these provisions during 2019 but no longer publicly traded.

For each director’s seat not held by a female during at least a portion of the calendar year—when by law it should have been—the corporation will be subject to a $100,000 fine for the first violation and a $300,000 fine for further violations. Corporations that fail to timely file board member information with the Secretary of State will also be subject to a $100,000 fine.

The deadline for compliance is December 31, 2019.

New Mediation Disclosure Requirement

This new law requires lawyers to provide their clients with a printed disclosure describing the confidentiality restrictions applicable to mediation.  It must be provided to clients as soon as reasonably possible before the client agrees to participate in a mediation.

Paid Family Leave

Effective January 1, 2021, the Paid Family Leave wage replacement program will apply to employees who take time off for situations related to covered active duty status of the employee’s spouse, registered domestic partner, child or parent who is a member of the US Armed Forces.

These situations are described as “qualifying exigencies” which include: time off for official ceremonies, briefings, changes to child care arrangements, financial or legal arrangements, counseling or spending time with the covered service member during rest and recuperation leave, among others.

Sexual Harassment Training

Currently, employers with 50 or more employees are required to provide supervisors with two (2) hours of sexual harassment training within six months of hire or promotion.

Effective January 1, 2020, all employers with five (5) or more employees will be required to provide two (2) hours of sexual harassment training to supervisors and one (1) hour to all other employees within six months of hire or promotion, and every two years thereafter.

Temporary and seasonal employees must be trained within thirty (30) days of hire or 1,000 hours worked, whichever is earlier.  Temporary service agencies will be required to train employees who are placed with clients.

The Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”) will be required to provide an online training course that meets the new legal requirements.

Updated FMLA Forms

The federal Department of Labor (“DOL”) released updated forms for managing leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”).  The new forms have an expiration date of August 31, 2018.  Employers should ensure they are using these current forms.

In California, you should not use the DOL medical certification forms when your employees take leave under the FMLA and/or the California Family Rights Act (“CFRA”).  The federal medical certification forms request medical information, which is not allowed under California law.


Please feel free to contact Amanda J. Heitlinger or Raquel A. Hatfield if you wish to discuss any of these changes and for any of your employment law needs.  They can both be reached at (209) 522-2211.

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