New Year, New Laws for California Employers – Right to Inspect and Receive Employment Records and Right to Inspect and Copy Wage Records

Next in our series, “New Year, New Laws for California Employers,” we take a look at the rights of the right to inspect and receive employment records and the right to inspect and copy wage records.  Prepared by Mark Terman, partner in the Los Angeles office, this series looks at some of the significant new regulations becoming law in 2013 affecting private employers doing business in California.

Right to Inspect and Receive Employment Records

Under existing law, an employee has the right to inspect the personnel records relating to the employee’s performance or to any grievance concerning the employee, and has a right to copies of documents the employee has signed. AB 2674 requires employers to provide a current or former employee—or the employee’s representative authorized by the employee in writing—an opportunity to inspect and receive a copy of those records at reasonable intervals and at reasonable times. Deliverance of these papers is not to exceed 30 days of a written request, except during the pendency of a lawsuit filed by the employee or former employer relating to a personnel matter.

Employers are also required to create a records request form, but information requestors are not required to use it.  Current and former employees can bring legal action to recover a $750 penalty from the employer and their attorney’s fees, and obtain court orders compelling compliance.

This new law also adds some employer protections. Employers are not required to comply with more than 50 requests from a representative in one calendar month, may redact names of non-supervisory employees before producing records, and may charge no more than the actual cost of reproduction and, if mailed, postage.  The new law generally does not apply to employees covered by a valid collective bargaining agreement.  And it does not apply to: “(1) Records relating to the investigation of a possible criminal offense. (2) Letters of reference. (3) Ratings, reports or records that were: (A) Obtained prior to the employee’s employment; (B) Prepared by identifiable examination committee members; (C) Obtained in connection with a promotional examination.”

Right to Inspect and Copy Wage Records

Labor Code Sec. 226(a) continues to require employers to provide an itemized statement or paystub with timely wage payment that states gross wages, total hours worked and rates of pay for the hours of a nonexempt employee, all deductions, net wages earned, payroll period dates and other mandatory information.  (See, paystub requirements: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes.xhtml, click on “LAB” and “226”).

Employers are required to keep a copy of these wage records for at least three years at the place of employment, or at a central location within California.  Current or former employees may inspect or copy these records upon 21 days written or oral notice.  An employee suffering injury as a result of a knowing and intentional failure by an employer to comply with its Labor Code Sec. 226(a) paystub requirements is entitled to recover the greater of all actual damages or a specified sum, not exceeding an aggregate penalty of $4,000, and is entitled to an award of costs and reasonable attorney’s fees.

AB 2674 clarifies that the term “copy,” for purposes of wage record retention, includes a duplicate of the itemized statement provided to an employee or a computer-generated record that accurately shows all of the information existing law requires to be included in the itemized statement.

SB 1255 makes it easier to pursue penalties against employers by presuming injury when wage statements do not have all required information.  Under the new law, an employee is deemed to suffer injury if the employer fails to provide:

1. A wage statement; or

2. Accurate and complete information required (the employee cannot promptly and easily determine from the wage statement alone the amount of the gross or net wages paid to the employee during the pay period or other specified information, the deductions the employer made from the gross wages to determine the net wages paid to the employee during the pay period, the name and address of the employer or legal entity that secured the services of the employer and other specified information).

 

Links to the other posts from this series are below.

New Year, New Laws for California Employers – Employer Access to Social Media

New Year, New Laws for California Employers – Religious Dress and Grooming Protected and Breastfeeding Further Protected

New Year, New Laws for California Employers – Added Whistle-blower Protections, With Whom Will the EDD Share Employer Reports and Contracts with Commission Employees