Important Employment Law Updates for 2017

We know it’s a pain, but the law is always changing. Read on to discover important employment law updates for this year.  By reading this article and implementing any necessary changes, you’re well on your way to a compliant 2017!

Hiring Employees

Minimum Wage (it’s a-changin’ folks!)

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 levels.  Don’t worry, we’ve dedicated an entire article to this topic.

What NOT to Ask When Interviewing Job Applicants

Although there are no significant legal changes in this area, we thought it relevant and helpful to give a quick guide on what questions you cannot ask a job candidate.  As daunting as hiring employees can be, the list of “no no” questions is rather straightforward (more detail can be found in this article), and are listed below:

  1. “What is your religious affiliation, if any?”
  2. “Are you pregnant?”
  3. “What is your political affiliation, if any?”
  4. “What is your race, color, or ethnicity?”
  5. “How old are you?”
  6. “Are you disabled?”
  7. “Are you married?”
  8. “Do you have children, or plan to?”
  9. “Are you in debt?”
  10. “Do you drink alcohol or smoke?”

Bearing this in mind, continue to the next section to see some more specific, legal updates regarding hiring employees.

California

  • Equal Pay and Salary History

California expanded its equal pay law and it is now unlawful for an employer to pay employees engaged in “substantially similar” work different amounts based on the employee’s gender, race, or ethnicity.  Employers cannot suppress wage discussions amongst employees.  Lastly, the law requires employers to maintain records of employee wages and job classifications for at least three years.

We have dedicated more detail to this topic in this article (scroll to the end).

  • Juvenile Criminal History and “Ban the Box”

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.

Similarly, “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.”  More on this here.

New York

  • Salary History

Echoing the California statute mentioned above, New York also prohibits employers from asking job candidates about their salary history in an effort to reduce wage discrimination between men and women.  Here is the link to our article again (again, scroll to the end).

  • “Ban the box”

New York City implemented the ban on inquiries into former criminal history disclosure (a.k.a. “ban the box”) before California, and more on this movement can be found above.  Here is the link again.

Running Your Business

California

  • Paid Sick Days (PSDs)

San Diego:  The city of San Diego has enacted the Earned Sick Leave and Minimum Wage Ordinance (the “Ordinance”), available via this link.  The Ordinance applies to employees that are not “salaried” (exempt) and to employees who are “entitled to payment of minimum wage” (non-exempt employees).  The Ordinance applies to all businesses in San Diego, regardless of the business size or classification as a non-profit.  We have a whole article on this topic.

Los Angeles:  Los Angeles’ ordinance applies to employers with 26 or more employees, but coming up in July 2017, the ordinance will apply to employers with 25 or more employees.  All employees are eligible. Employers can either follow California’s one hour of PSDs earned for every 30 hours worked method (accrual), or can award an employee 48 hours paid leave each calendar year (front-load).  We have a whole article on this topic.

San Francisco:  San Francisco’s ordinance applies to all workers within the city limits, regardless of full- or part-time status.  PSDs begins to accrue 90 days after the employee’s first day of work.  The ordinance allows 40 hours or five work days paid sick leave for employees of small businesses (10 or fewer employees) and allows 72 hours or nine work days paid sick leave for employees of all other sized businesses.  We have a whole article on this topic.

  • Paid Family Leave

Family leave in California is… shall we say…  confusing.  Whether you are an employer or an employee, there are several nuances, rules, and paperwork requirements to keep track of when any sort of family leave is needed.  But fear not because we are here to help!  It is imperative to read our article thoroughly because “family leave” encompass maternity “disability” leave, familial “bonding” time with a new child, and time off to handle a serious medical condition.

  • 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 25 hours.

  • 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 Programs

For employers with more than 5 employees, California has recently passed legislation that requires these companies to enroll their employees in what is to be the California Secure Choice Retirement Savings Program (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.

New York

  • Paid Sick Days

Since 2014, New York City’s  Earned Sick Time Act (commonly referred to as “Paid Sick Leave Law”) entitled employees to certain PSDs.  All non-government employees earn 1 hour of earned leave for every 30 hours worked within the geographic boundaries of New York City, so long as you work at least 80 hours (or 10 full work days) in that calendar year.  We have a whole article on this topic.

  • 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.

Misc. Updates

California

  • 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.

 

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!

Revised by: Zachary Avina – 07/31/17

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!

Photo Credit:  © [Rawpixel.com] (CC2 Notice) (License)

Contact us for a free consultation. It'll be fun.