In 2018, Governor Brown signed several laws impacting California employers. A summary of some of the key new laws follows. The effective date of each new law is indicated in the heading of the Assembly Bill (AB) and/or Senate Bill (SB).1 The list below is in numerical order by AB or SB.
Late last year, a bipartisan coalition in the United States Senate sponsored legislation to ban the use of mandatory arbitration agreements to settle sexual harassment and sex discrimination claims (H.R. 4734/S. 2203). While that bill—titled the “Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment Act of 2017”—remains pending, a similar bill is also now pending before the California legislature (A.B. 3080). If enacted, A.B. 3080 would prohibit employers from requiring mandatory arbitration agreements as a condition of employment, continued employment, or the receipt of any employment-related benefit, such as a bonus.
As a reminder, the New York City Earned Safe and Sick Time Act (“Paid Safe/Sick Leave Law”) became effective on May 5, 2018. The Paid Safe/Sick Leave Law applies to all employers with five or more employees who work more than 80 hours a year in New York City and requires employers to provide up to 40 hours (5 days) of paid safe and sick leave. Employers with less than five employees must provide unpaid sick and safe leave. In order to notify employees about their rights under the Paid Safe/Sick Leave Law, New York City employers must distribute written notice to their employees on the first day of employment or by June 4, 2018. Employers can find the new Notice of Employee Rights on the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs (“DCA”) website, available here. The DCA also provides the new notice in Spanish, Chinese and 24 other languages.
In a long-awaited decision, the United States Supreme Court, by a 5-to-4 vote, overturned the National Labor Relations Board’s (the “Board”) ruling that class action waivers violate the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) because they interfere with the right to engage in “protected activity,” which, according to the Board, includes the ability to bring class or collective actions. Epic Sys. Corp. v. Lewis, No. 16-0285, 2018 WL 2292444, at *23 (U.S. May 21, 2018).
On March 6, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (“WHD”) announced a new pilot program through which employers may settle potential overtime and minimum wage claims under the FLSA by paying back pay owed to the affected employee(s), but without paying civil penalties or liquidated damages. The Payroll Audit Independent Determination (PAID) program will be available for six months, after which the Department will evaluate the viability of the program. This program is purely voluntary, both for employers, in that they would need to self-disclose the violation(s) to the WHD, and employees, who may choose to accept the back pay being offered by the employer as full settlement of the potential claim, or decline the offer and file suit, thus preserving the right to recover liquidated damages if successful. If the employee chooses to accept the back pay, and thus settle the potential claim by signing a release of that claim, the WHD will only approve a release if it is tailored to the identified violations and the time period covered by the back wages payment. Employers are not eligible for the program if they are already under investigation by the WHD, involved in litigation or arbitration regarding the particular claim, or the employee has already communicated an interest in litigating or settling the issue. Claims that could be resolved through this program include misclassification of employees as exempt from overtime or failure to pay for “off the clock” work.
Allegations of sexual misconduct against celebrities and high-profile individuals continue to occupy the national spotlight. State legislators around the country have started to propose new laws which ban confidentiality and nondisclosure provisions in settlement agreements that resolve disputes arising from sexual harassment allegations. As we wrote about in an early blog post, critics of confidentiality provisions claim these clauses enable victimizers to conceal and continue long-running patterns of sexual misconduct, and prevent discussion of the accusations among the victims and co-workers.
We have summarized the proposed legislation here: