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New Employment Laws for 2006

By: John T. Kennedy
03/20/06

Good news for employers!

 

The 2005 legislative session did not include many new employment laws becoming effective on or before January 1, 2006.  However, some of the laws that were enacted which employers need to be aware of are discussed below.

 

2006 – New Laws

 

  • Final Wages:  Labor Code section 213 was amended to allow employers to pay final wages by direct deposit if the employee already received his or her paycheck in that manner.  The time limits for paying final wages were not changed.
  • Overtime for Computer Software Employees:  Labor Code section 515.5 was amended regarding the over-time exemption for employees in the computer software field.  Previously, such employees were considered exempt from over-time requirements if certain conditions were met, including the payment of not less than a specified hourly rate.  The amendment added that the exemption is also met if the employee receives an annualized full-time salary equivalent to the hourly rate.
  • Paychecks:  Labor Code section 226 was amended, effective July 21, 2005.  Previously employers were required to furnish employees with an accurate itemized paycheck that included, among other things, the employee’s name and social security number.  Due to identify theft concerns, the Legislature added section 226 to prevent inclusion of an employee’s social security number on paychecks and required that, by no later than January 2008, employers include on an itemized wage statement no more than the last four digits of the employee’s social security number or an existing employee identification number.  The 2005 amendment clarified that the identification number must not be the employee’s social security number.
  • Marital Status and Sexual Orientation Protected by The Unruh Act:  AB 1400 amended the Unruh Civil Rights Act to clarify that discrimination based upon marital status and sexual orientation is also precluded by this Act.
  • Hate Crime Statute of Limitations:  Civil Code section 52 and California Code of Civil Procedure section 338 were amended to extend the statute of limitations for civil actions based on hate crimes from one year to three years.  Although this new law does not directly apply to employment claims, it will affect California businesses as it is part of The Civil Rights Act of 2005.
  • Workplace Violence Restraining Orders:  California Code of Civil Procedure section 527.8, California Family Code section 6383, and Welfare and Institutions Code section 15657.03 were amended to augment the means by which employers may serve a temporary restraining order or an injunction against someone who poses a threat to the workplace.  Such individuals can include a disgruntled former employee or client, or the spouse of an employee who is a victim of domestic violence.  The amendments are intended to make serving the person against whom the protective order was obtained easier by requiring law enforcement officers who respond to the scene of reported unlawful violence to provide the perpetrator with verbal notice of the protective order.  This verbal notice constitutes service and legal notice as long as the employer mails an endorsed copy of the restraining order to the individual within one day.
  • Equal Opportunity Programs in Civil Service:  AB 124 amends the State Civil Service Act and requires each state agency to establish its own equal employment opportunity program to eliminate discriminatory preferences in state employment.  The amendment also requires that each state agency ensure equal access to state jobs, work assignments, training, and other employment-related opportunities for all qualified job applicants and employees based on merit.  AB 124 clarifies that state departments and agencies must collect statistical employment data and identify, report, and analyze the under utilization of racial, gender and ethnic groups to ensure that the under utilization of any group is not the result of discrimination.  These amendments are designed to correct previous statutory requirements regarding affirmative action programs that were found by the courts to be unconstitutional.
  • Catastrophic Leave Credits:  Government Code section 19991.13 was added to allow previously excluded state employers (i.e., managerial, confidential, and supervisory employees) to receive leave credits donated by represented employees for catastrophic leave purposes.
  • Military Leave:  Government Code section 19771 was amended to extend from four years to five years the maximum amount of time that a state agency must grant a military leave of absence for employees called to active duty in the armed forces.
  • Rights of Registered Domestic Partners to Public Employee Retirement:  Several sections of the Education, Government and Probate Codes affecting public employees and teachers were amended, added or repealed, resulting in the requirement that a registered domestic partner of a member be treated in the same manner as a spouse for purposes of post-retirement death benefits, community property issues, and laws effecting legal separation and the dissolution of a member’s marriage.
  • Statute of Limitations for FEHA Claims by Minors:  Government Code section 12960 was amended to extend the one-year statute of limitations for filing a claim for violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, if the violation was committed when the employee was under the age of 18.  Under the new law, the statute of limitations for such a complaint will be one year after the employee’s 18th birthday.
  • Service of Labor Commission Decisions:  Labor Code sections 98 and 98.1 were amended to permit orders, decisions, or awards of the Labor Commissioner to be served as provided in the rules for service of a summons in a civil action.  This may include leaving a copy of the document at the home or the office of the person being served and subsequently mailing a copy of the document to the person at the same location.
  • Meal Periods for Motion Picture/Broadcasting Employees:  Labor Code section 512 was amended to permit employers in the motion picture and broadcasting industry to defer to appropriate provisions in their collective bargaining agreements regarding meal periods rather than complying with state law regarding meal periods. 

This alert does not attempt to provide a description of every employment-related law that was amended in the 2005 Legislative Session.  Additional information may be obtained from the official California legislative information website at www.leginfo.ca.gov, or you can consult with appropriate trade associations or experienced employment law counsel.

 

John T. Kennedy, partner at Nossaman, specializes in complex business litigation with an emphasis in employment law.  He can be reached at jkennedy@nossaman.com.

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