Handbooks and Policies

Top 4 New California Laws and Top 5 Tips for California Employers in 2018

Top 4 New California Laws and Top 5 Tips for California Employers in 2018

This year, the California Legislature introduced a whopping 2,495 bills – and hundreds of these had to do with labor and employment issues.  Governor Brown signed many into law on October 15, 2017. Here are the top 4 new laws for 2018:

“BAN THE BOX” – Criminal Conviction History 

Los Angeles and San Francisco already had local ordinances prohibiting employers for asking about criminal histories before a job is offered to an applicant. This new law (AB 1008) applies similar requirements upon employers statewide.

The law prohibits employers with five (5) or more employees from considering criminal history until a conditional offer of employment has been made.  If an employer decides to deny employment based on the criminal history, it must make an individualized assessment as to the 1) nature and gravity of the offense or conduct, 2) the time that has passed since the offense or conduct and completion of the sentence, and 3) the nature of the job held or sought.

If the employer determines not to hire the applicant, it must provide notice to the employee of 1) the disqualifying conviction that is a basis for the decision, 2) a copy of the conviction history, and 3) an explanation of the applicant’s right to respond before the decision becomes final and the deadline by which to respond (at least five business days).

If employer makes a final decision to deny employment, it must provide another written notice containing 1) the final denial or disqualification, 2) any existing procedure the employer has for the applicant to challenge the decision or request reconsideration, and 3) the right to file a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH).


This new law (AB 168) prohibits employers from inquiring about an applicant’s salary history, including compensation and benefits. Employers also cannot rely on salary history information of an applicant as a factor in determining whether to offer employment to an applicant or what salary to offer an applicant. Applicants, however, can “voluntarily and without prompting” disclose salary history information, and if so, then the employer can rely or consider such information in determining salary for that applicant.

Also, employers must provide, upon reasonable request, the pay scale for the position.


Currently, employers with 50 or more employees are required to comply with the California Family Rights Act and provide parental leave of up to 12 weeks to bond with a new child (birth, adoption, foster care placement) within one year. This new law (SB 63) lowers the number of employees for covered businesses to 20 employees in a 75-mile radius. The law also prohibits an employer from refusing to maintain and pay for coverage under a group health plan for an employee who takes this leave. The employer must provide the employee with a guarantee of employment in the same or comparable position following the leave.

The employee must also meet certain eligibility requirements like those under the CFRA and federal Family Medical Leave Act. The leave is unpaid, however, the employee can use accrued vacation pay, paid sick time, or other accrued paid time off.


Under the new law (AB 1701), General Contractors on a private construction project can be liable for wage and benefit liabilities incurred by subcontractors at any tier of the project. This would include items like unpaid/underpaid wages, unpaid overtime and related wage violations. General Contractors can request from subcontractors the payroll records.

*         *         *         *

Top Tips for Employers:

  1. Get those Employee Handbooks updated, and start training Managers and Supervisors on these new laws.
  2. Edit applications so that they do not contain “taboo” questions regarding salary history and criminal backgrounds.
  3. Edit job postings (“help wanted ads”) so that they do not ask applicants to send in salary history information when applying.
  4. Pre-determine pay scales for jobs, and create a process to respond to reasonable inquiries regarding those pay scales.
  5. Stay informed! There are several other important new employment laws as well, including those involving anti-harassment training, immigration, human trafficking, and retaliation and whistleblowing.

For over 21 years, James has provided day-to-day counseling and advice to employers regarding compliance with employment laws, and reducing risks of employment-related claims and lawsuits. He also provides vigorous and strategic litigation defense when claims and lawsuits do arise.  In 2018, James will serve as the President of the Contra Costa County Bar Association, and has been on the Board for many years.

DISCLAIMER: Information provided on this website is not legal advice. It does not create an attorney-client relationship. Nor should you act on anything stated in this article without conferring with the Author or other legal counsel regarding your specific situation.

2015: New Employment Laws In California

2015: New Employment Laws In California

For 2015, California employers must be aware of a few important (and somewhat complicated) new – or changed – employment laws. I am happy to post a PDF version of 10 of those new employment laws in California. Some of these new laws should be reflected in Employee Handbooks, involve providing notices to employees, and require new training for managers and supervisors.

10 New Employment Laws for 2015

As always, please do not hesitate to contact me to discuss these laws, to update your company’s Employee Handbook and other essential documents and agreements, or for assistance regarding any other employment/HR issue.

Employee Tweets Disliked By Federal Trade Commission

Employee Tweets Disliked By Federal Trade Commission

Employee advocacy, aka employee engagement via social media, has been a hot trend with marketers, PR professionals, and business owners. This is because, in many ways, a company’s own employees are the best folks to endorse and promote the company’s own products and services, as well as the products and services of clients and customers. However, harnessing this power takes advanced preparation, guidance and a thoughtful process.

Recently, Deutsch LA caught the attention of the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) when its employees used Twitter to promote a client’s product (Sony’s PS Vita game console). Specifically, the FTC alleged that various Deutsch LA employees posted positive tweets about the PS Vita to their personal Twitter accounts, without disclosing their connection to Deutsch LA or Sony (a client). The FTC charged that the employee tweets were misleading, as they did not reflect the views of actual consumers who had used the PS Vita, and because they did not disclose that they were written by employees of Deutsch LA.

In my January 2015 article titled “Employees’ Tweets Lead to FTC Enforcement” I explore the FTC’s allegations against Deutsch LA and provide some best practices for companies who have employees who use social media (so just about every employer).

LinkedIn Contacts: To Whom Do They Belong?

LinkedIn Contacts: To Whom Do They Belong?

Do you voluntarily use LinkedIn to help your employer promote business, services and/or products? Does your company request, or require employees to use LinkedIn to further develop client/customer/vendor relationships?

What happens if/when the employment relationship ends on a sour note? Will there be a battle between employer and employee regarding the ownership of the LinkedIn contacts, and perhaps the account(s) used?

In my November 2014 post titled “Employer vs. Employee: Ownership of LinkedIn Contacts” I explored these questions and others that employers and employees may face when the employment relationship ends and ownership of LinkedIn information becomes disputed. While courts have yet to publish many decisions on this issue, I focused on a federal court case (Eagle v. Morgan) that provides some guidance to employers.

I also added four tips for employers to prevent such disputes from arising and to help employers maintain control and ownership of LinkedIn information former employees have used/developed on their employer’s behalf.

More Class Action Lawsuits: Employee Cell Phone Expense

More Class Action Lawsuits: Employee Cell Phone Expense

Many business owners believe that California is a very difficult place to conduct business and to have employees. That belief may soon gain more advocates as a result of a recent California court decision that employers must consider. The Court determined that employers must reimburse employee cell phone expense when employees use their personal phones/mobile devices for work related purposes. The Court focused on California Labor Code Section 2802, among others. The Court reasoned that employers should not benefit from a “windfall” by relying on employees to pay for their own cell phone plans while using such devices for the benefit of employers. This is true, the Court decided, even if the employee does not suffer any additional out of pocket expenses for having their own cell phone plan (for example, employees who have an unlimited plan, or who do not get charged per call, really do not suffer any detriment by using periodically their own devices for work).

You can read more about Cochran v. Schwans Home Services, Inc. and some practical pointers in my October 2014 post titled “Cell Phone Expenses: Next Wave of Employee Class Action Lawsuit?” at Maximize Social Business.