Here are some of the new employment laws that went into effect in California on January 1, 2016. It is probably no surprise that most of the laws continue to favor employees:

Minimum Wage Increase. As of January 1, 2016, the California state minimum wage increased from $9 to $10. This accordingly increased the minimum salary for many exempt classifications from $37,440 to $41,600.

California Fair Pay Act (SB 358). The new Fair Pay Act amended California’s existing pay law, and became one of the strongest equal pay laws in the nation. It is now more difficult for an employer to defend against an equal pay claim. The Act lowers the burden of proof for plaintiffs claiming gender-discrimination pay practices. The employee need only show that he or she is not being paid at the same rate for “substantially similar” work, rather than “equal” work as used in prior law. The Fair Pay Act also increases the burden of proof for employers in defending such claims, requiring employers to directly demonstrate that a wage differential is based on one or more factors such as a seniority system, a merit system, a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, or a bona fide factor other than sex. The new law also allows employees to challenge their pay based on wages paid to employees at other work locations of the same employer.

PAGA Amendments (AB 1506). This amendment provided welcome relief to employers. The amendments to the Private Attorneys General Act of 2014 (“PAGA”) provide employers 33 days to cure a violation for failing to provide employees with a wage statement containing the inclusive dates of the pay period and/or the employer’s legal name and address. An employer may cure such defects by providing each affected employee with a fully compliant wage statement for each pay period for the three-year period.

Expanded Labor Commissioner Enforcement Powers for “Wage Theft” (SB 588). The Labor Commission is authorized to file a lien on real estate, or levy on an employer’s property, or impose a stop order on an employer’s business to assist an employee in collecting unpaid wages where there is a judgment against the employer. Additionally, employers, or individuals acting on behalf of employers, who violate any provision regulating minimum wages or hours and days of work in any order of the Industrial Welfare Commission, or who violate other related provisions of law, may be held liable for the unpaid judgment as the employer for such violation.

Kin Care Expansion to Harmonize with Paid Sick Leave Law (SB 579). The Act is expanded to provide that employees may take kin care leave to care for grandparents, grandchildren and siblings. It also expands the use for “kin care” to include the same uses provided under the Paid Sick Leave Law.

Family School Partnership Act (SB 579). The school-related leave law is expanded to broaden the reasons employees may take job-protected leave from work to include (1) finding, enrolling, or re-enrolling children in a school or with a licensed child care provider, and (2) addressing a child care provider or school emergency, including a request that the child be picked up from school/child care, behavioral/discipline problems, closure or unexpected unavailability of the school (excluding planned holidays) or a natural disaster.

Retaliation Laws Extend to Family Members (AB 1509). California’s new law now extends anti-retaliation protection to family members. An employer is prohibited from discharging or, in any manner, discriminating, retaliating, or taking adverse action against any employee who is a family member of a person who engaged in, or is perceived to have engaged in, protected conduct.

Misuse of E-Verify (AB 622). The new law expands the definition of an “unlawful employment practice” to include using “E-Verify” in a time or manner not required by federal law or required by a federal agency memorandum of understanding. The law prohibits employers from (1) checking the employment authorization status of existing employees, or of job applicants who have not received an offer of employment, or (2) otherwise using E-Verify in a way that is inconsistent with the E-Verify obligations of employers. The law carries a civil penalty of up to $10,000 for each violation.

For further information regarding California’s new employment laws that went into effect on January 1, 2016, please contact Rhonda L. Nelson at