Labor and Employment Bills, Part II

Following up on last week’s Part I, please find below Part II of our Annual Update of new bills likely to impact California public agencies with regard to labor and employment issues. Most of these laws will take effect on January 1, 2017.

For more information on any of the newly-passed bills, or recommendations on how to prepare for these changes, please feel free to contact our attorneys listed below.
 
AB 1978 by Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) – Employment: property service workers.
AB 1978 enacts a number of requirements for the janitorial industry and protections for its employees. The bill also enhances the authority of the Department of Industrial Relations to address concerns of workplace sexual violence and sexual harassment. Requirements for covered employers include: (1) to keep accurate records of specific information regarding employees for three years; (2) to comply with specified posting requirements; and (3) to register annually with the Labor Commissioner. AB 1978 requires the Department to establish a biennial in-person sexual violence and harassment prevention training requirement and to create a searchable database regarding registered covered employers and its compliance and enforcement activities. Starting in 2019, new applications for and renewal of registration must complete the sexual violence and harassment prevention training. The bill also establishes civil and criminal penalties for specific violations of these provisions.

AB 2028 by Assemblymember Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove) – Public employees’ retirement: involuntary termination: reinstatement
AB 2028 requires CalPERS to grant retirement service credit for the period between an employee’s initial termination and subsequent reinstatement. The bill overrides CalPERS’s prior position that it cannot grant service credit for time the employee did not actually work. AB 2028 only applies to employees who were terminated after January 1, 2017. Thus, any currently pending proceedings involving terminated employees would not be subject to this bill. AB 2028 also requires contributions to be paid for that service credit. Although the language is less than clear, it appears the employer and employee are responsible for their respective contributions. Thus, the employee’s contributions would be deducted from any back pay.
AB 2337 by Assemblymember Autumn R. Burke (D-Inglewood) – Employment protections: victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking
Under existing law, an employee has a right to take time off to obtain services and treatment because of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. If an employer discriminates or retaliates against an employee for taking time off under those circumstances, then the employee has the right to file a complaint. AB 2337 requires employers to provide notice to new employees about these rights in writing. The information must also be provided to other employees upon request. This obligation begins once the Labor Commissioner develops and posts a form specifically for employers to comply with the notice requirements.

AB 2375 by the Committee on Public Employees, Retirement, and Social Security – Public Employees’ Retirement System: omnibus bill
AB 2375 is the annual “housekeeping” bill that makes various minor and noncontroversial changes to the Public Employees’ Retirement Law. AB 2375 contains two notable clarifications:
  1. When a CalPERS member applies for concurrent retirement with service credit earned under the University of California Retirement System or a 1937 Act Retirement System, the retirement benefit is based on the highest annual average compensation during any consecutive 12 or 36-month period, regardless of which system the member was in at the time the compensation was earned; and
  2. The interest rate on late payments for contracting agencies is 10% or the investment return rate for the prior year, whichever is higher. Further, in addition to the interest charge, CalPERS may impose a penalty for a payment more than three months late.

AB 2375 also removes language that allowed members to designate their final compensation period because the My CalPERS system now automatically searches payroll records to determine the final compensation period.

AB 2404 by Assemblymember Ken Cooley (D-Rancho Cordova) – Public Employees’ Retirement System: optional settlements
The bill eliminates and combines several of the optional retirement benefit settlements which are available to CalPERS members who retire on or after January 1, 2018. The hope is this bill will help to streamline and simplify CalPERS retirement settlement options.
AB 2532 by Assemblymember David S. Chiu (D-San Francisco) – Employment services: verification
This bill repeals the Unemployment Insurance Code section requiring state or local government entities, community action agencies, or any private organization contracting therewith that provides employment services, to verify the legal status or authorization to work prior to providing services. The bill also repeals the requirement that a notice be posted in the workplace stating that only citizens or those persons legally authorized to work in the United States will be permitted to use the agency’s employment services. There are no changes in the legal work eligibility requirements and federal law continues to require verification prior to hiring or providing employment services. The bill merely eliminates the state law, which is preempted by federal immigration law.
AB 2843 by Assemblymember Ed Chau (D-Monterey Park). Public records: employee contact information
AB 2843 extends protections for personal information under the California Public Records Act. Formerly, the Act excepted the home addresses and home telephone number of state employees and employees of a school district or county office of education from the public record. Now, all public employees will be covered within the limitation on disclosure of personal information. The bill also expands the information protected from disclosure by including cellphone numbers and birth dates. Due to the increase in duties, the bill imposes a state-mandated local program.

SB 269 by Senator Richard D. Roth (D-Riverside) – Disability access
This bill alters how construction-related accessibility claims proceed under the ADA and Unruh Civil Rights Act. The bill creates a rebuttable presumption that certain technical violations do not cause a plaintiff “difficulty, discomfort or embarrassment” (the current standard for a violation). Small businesses will be exempt from liability for minimum statutory damages if the structure or area was inspected by a certified access specialist (CASp) for 120 days.
The State Architect is now required to publish, and regularly update, easily accessible lists of businesses that file prescribed notices of inspection, as well as businesses which have been inspected by a CASp on or after January 1, 2017. Local agencies must expand their outreach to businesses regarding ADA compliance by either developing and providing materials or providing materials developed by the California Commission on Disability Access. The bill requires local agencies to expedite review of projects for small businesses.
SB 1063 by Senator Isadore Hall III (D-Compton) РConditions of employment: wage differential: race or ethnicity 
 
SB 1063 expands the existing equal pay legislation, the Fair Pay Act, to include race or ethnicity. Just as an employer is prohibited from paying employees less than those of the opposite sex for substantially similar work, an employer now may not pay employees less than those of another race or ethnicity for substantially similar work. The bill likely will have little effect on public employers as other statutes already prohibit paying employees different wages based on race or ethnicity.
SB 1203 by Senator Robert M. Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) – Retirement systems: joint powers authorities: benefit formulas
This bill provides continuity of benefit plans and formulas for classic/legacy employees when agencies form a new joint powers authority. Under SB 1203, the new Joint Powers Authority (JPA) may to continue to offer these employees the pre-PEPRA defined benefit plans and formulas offered by the predecessor member agencies to their classic/legacy employees. Put simply, classic/legacy members retain the same benefit plan and formula with the new JPA that they had with their prior agency.