California Adopts Measures to Improve Equality in the Workplace

Beginning next year, California is taking steps to remove barriers in the workplace on based on gender and other characteristics historically associated with inequalities in wages and other working conditions. The laws will protect more employees, and provide them with more information about their rights, and ensure equality in access to restroom facilities. Below is a summary of the new laws.

Prior salary history

Under California’s existing Equal Pay Law, an employer is prohibited from paying an employee a wage rate less than the rate paid to an employee of the opposite sex for substantially similar work, when that work is viewed as composite of skill, effort, and responsibility, and performed under similar working conditions.

One exception to the equal pay requirement is made for wage differences based on a “bona fide factor other than sex.” The Equal Pay Law has been amended (AB 1676) to expressly provide that an employee’s prior salary does not, by itself, justify a wage disparity l under the “bona fide factor” exception. Legitimate bona fide reasons for wage disparities include factors such as education, training or experience. The amendment is effective Jan. 1, 2017.

Race or ethnicity

California’s Equal Pay Law has also been amended (SB 1063) to prohibit employers from paying employees of one race or ethnicity less than employees of a different race or ethnicity for substantially similar work, considering the skill, effort, and responsibility of the work, that is performed under similar working conditions. The amendment is effective Jan. 1, 2017.

Juvenile Criminal History

Existing law prohibits an employer from asking a job applicant for information about an arrest or detention that did not result in a conviction or referral to a diversion program, or for information about dismissed or sealed conviction records, to make employment decisions. Under an amendment to this law (AB 1843), an employer is also prohibited from asking an applicant to disclose, or from utilizing as a factor in determining any condition of employment, an applicant’s juvenile criminal court records. The law is effective Jan. 1, 2017.

Crime Victims

Existing California law protects from discrimination and retaliation employees who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and/or stalking and provides them the right to take time off from work to obtain medical attention and obtain victims’ services. This law has been amended (AB 2337) to require employers to give new employees written notice of these rights upon hire and to provide a notice to current employees upon request. A notice form is required to be developed the Labor Commissioner by July 1, 2017. Employers will be required to comply from that date.

Notice of Availability of State EITC

Currently, employers are required to provide workers with notice about the availability of the Federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Under new law (AB 1847), California employers will also be required to provide employees with notice of the California EITC. The notice must specifically state prescribed text and the notice must be handed directly to the employee or mailed to the employee’s last known address. It must be provided within one week before or after, or at the same time, that the employer provides an annual wage summary, including a Form W-2 or Form 1099, to an employee. Compliance Poster Company’s CA Employee Tax Information Pamphlet (#05704) will be revised later this year to include the required text.

Gender-neutral Restrooms

The Health and Safety Code has been revised to require that all single-user toilet facilities in any business establishment, place of public accommodation, or state or local government agency must be identified as all-gender toilet facilities using universally accepted unisex restroom signage, as provided in the California Building Code.

Still have questions about complying with California’s new laws? We can help answer them. Give us a call today!

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