Important Employment Law Updates for 2017

Read on to discover important employment law updates for the New Year. By perusing this article and implementing any necessary changes, you’re well on your way to a compliant 2017!

Minimum Wage Increase

Perhaps the most important update is the minimum wage increase, which affects both hourly and salaried employees– and differs at the federal, state, and local level. Don’t worry, we’ve dedicated an entire article to this topic.


Paid Family Leave 

The maximum weekly amount of benefits paid to employees on paid family leave and state disability leave increases as of January 1. Click here to learn how to calculate the amount of Paid Family Leave support you may be entitled to from the state.

Equal Pay Act Expanded

California expanded their equal pay law and now makes it unlawful for an employer to pay employees engaged in substantially similar work different amounts based on their gender, race, or ethnicity. Employers also cannot prevent employees from discussing their wages, or asking about the wages of others and can be penalized if they discriminate against or terminate employees based on their wage discussions. Lastly, the law requires employers to maintain records of employee wages and job classifications for at least three years.

Juvenile Criminal History

Effective January 1, 2017, the Juvenile Criminal History Bill prohibits an employer from asking potential employees to disclose any arrest, detention, or verdict that occurred while the person was a juvenile and prohibits the employer from using this information, if discovered, as a determining factor in the hiring process.

Notice of Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Leave Rights

Employers with 25 or more employees must notify their employees at the time of hire of their right to take protected leave when victimized by domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.  The California Labor Commissioner will develop a form by July 1, 2017, that employers may use to comply with this notice requirement.   

Work Experience Education Programs

For employers who regularly hire interns, this education program allows students ages 14 and up to participate in a work experience program for credit. It also extends the amount of time students can participate in a job shadowing experience if the school principal certifies that the participation is necessary for the student’s technical career education program. Students can now job shadow up to 40 hours per week/month, rather than the current 25 hours.

Unfair Immigration-Related Practices 

As of January 1, 2017, employers cannot request additional or different documentation than federal immigration law requires. Employers also may not (1) refuse to honor documents that, on their face, reasonably appear genuine, (2) refuse to honor documents or work authorizations based on specific status or term that accompanies the authorization to work nor may they (3) re-verify the potential employee’s authorization to work.

Single User Restrooms Must Be “All Gender”

Effective March 1, 2017, single-occupancy restrooms in all business establishments must be identified with signage as “all-gender” facilities, rather than men’s or women’s restroom. A single-user restroom is one with no more than one toilet and one urinal.

Secure Choice Retirement Savings Program

For employers with more than 5 employees, California has recently passed legislature that requires these companies to enroll their employees in what is to be the California Secure Choice Retirement Savings Program; that is if they don’t offer their own retirement savings plan. Although this new requirement will most likely not take effect until 2019, it is nonetheless extremely important that you get up to speed on what it is and how it works!

Secure Choice (“SC”) is meant to operate as a 401(k), with workers automatically contributing a percentage of their wages to SC (the percentage is open to adjustment). Employers with more than 100 employees will need to offer a retirement plan within 12 months after SC is open for enrollment; employers with more than 50 employees will need to offer a retirement plan within 24 months after SC is open for enrollment; and employers with more than 5 employees will need to offer a retirement plan within 36 months after SC is open for enrollment. We recommend checking out the state’s resource on the topic—and continuing checking in as things evolve.

Los Angeles Passes a “Ban-the Box” Ordinance 

Ban-the-box is an international campaign by civil rights groups and advocates for ex-offenders, aimed at persuading employers to remove from their hiring applications the check box that asks if applicants have a criminal record. A new Los Angeles ordinance, effective on January 22, 2017, imposes strict requirements on how and when employers can obtain criminal history information and also mandates a new poster for Los Angeles employers. Both San Francisco and New York city also have Ban-the-Box ordinances, also referred to as the “Fair Chance Initiative.”

New York

Payment of Wages

Effective March 7, 2017, employers may not pay wages by payroll debit card (a card given to the employee that provides access to an account to which transfers of the employee’s wages are made on a recurring basis) unless they give employees detailed written notice, and ensure employees can withdraw their wages from ATMs near their residence or workplace free from transaction fees.

Employers who pay their employees using a method other than cash or check must provide their employees with written notice containing the following:

  • A description of the employee’s options for receiving wages, in plain language;
  • A statement that the employer cannot require the employee to accept wages by payroll debit card or direct deposit;
  • A statement that the employee cannot be charged any fees for services that are necessary for the employee to access his or her wages in full; and
  • For employees who chose to be paid via payroll debit card, a list of locations where an employee can access and withdraw wages at no charge and within reasonable proximity to their place of residence or place of work.

Applicant Salary History

New York City (NYC) might change the way some employers conduct interviews. A new bill passed by the NYC Council will restrict an employer’s ability to ask an applicant about their salary, benefits, or other means of compensation from their past or current employer. Effective November 1, 2017, this new law will affect NYC private employers, with four (4) or more employees. Although employers will no longer be allowed to inquire (verbally or written) about an applicant’s salary history, if the applicant voluntarily discusses their salary history, then it’s ok to talk about. Employers can ask about applicant expectations in respect to salary, benefits, and/or other compensation.

This bill was enacted to help reduce the likelihood that women will be prejudiced by prior salary levels and help break the cycle of gender pay inequity.


We know, there’s a lot of law here. Don’t worry— it really all boils down to implementing a few best practices. We are always here to help if you need us. Until the next round of legal updates!

Related Resources: 

Disclaimer: Although this article may be considered advertising under applicable law and ethical rules, the information in this article is presented for informational purposes only. Nothing herein should be taken as legal advice and this content does not form an attorney-client relationship. If you would like further information, Wilkinson Mazzeo would love to hear from you, so please feel free to reach out with any questions!

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