Last in a series on the new California laws affecting employers. In this piece we’ll cover minimum wage increases, immigration enforcement and labor law enforcement.

minimum wage

Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti and FreeDigitalPhotos.com

Minimum wage increases

  1. On January 1, the California state minimum wage went up to $11 per hour for businesses with 26 or more employees and $10.50 per hour for smaller companies. Legislation passed in 2016 set a pattern of wage increases that began in 2017, beginning with 50 cents in 2017 and 2018. Minimum wage will now increase $1 a year until it reaches $15 an hour in 2022. Businesses with 25 or fewer workers will reach that milestone a year later. The law also raises the amount employees must be paid for inclusion among exempt employees, who do not receive overtime pay. The amount rises to $45,760 when employers have 26 or more employees. The minimum salary for employers with 25 or fewer employees remains at $43,680.

Immigration enforcement

2. Assembly bill 450 is designed to protect employees from immigration enforcement while on the job. Employers may not:

  1. Provide federal immigration enforcement agents access to nonpublic areas without a judicial warrant
  2. Provide agents access to employee records without a subpoena or judicial warrant. This prohibition does not apply to Form I-9 inspections.
  3. Reverify an employee’s employment eligibility at a time or manner not required by federal law (i.e, voluntary self-audits)

Employers must:

  1. Post a notice to all employees within 72 hours informing them that a federal immigration agency plans to inspect Employment Eligibility Verification forms or other employment records
  2. Provide a copy of the notice to an affected employee upon request
  3. Within 72 hours of the inspection, give each affected employee and the collective bargaining representative (if applicable):
    • A copy of the results of the inspection
    • Written notice of the employer’s and employee’s obligations arising from the inspection

Fines for violating AB 450 are $2,000 to $5,000 for a first offense and $5,000 to $10,000 for subsequent violations.

Be prepared:

  1. Be certain anyone who might interact with authorities arriving at the worksite is aware of the new law. Train employees to ask for a warrant or subpoena.
  2. Create and document processes to meet all pre- and post-inspection notice requirements.
  3. Have a policy in place to handle these situations when they arise.

Labor law enforcement

3. Senate Bill 306 lowers the burden of proof for claims of retaliation. It also gives the Labor Commissioner wider latitude to act against an employer. The Labor Commissioner may:

  1. Investigate an employer for suspected retaliation or discrimination during a wage claim or other investigation — even if the employee hasn’t filed a complaint
  2. Obtain a court order prohibiting an employer from firing or disciplining an employee even before an investigation is complete
  3. With regard to the burden of proof, the previous standard for a temporary restraining order or a permanent injunction required the individual to establish:
    1. Irreparable harm if injunctive relief is not granted
    2. Likelihood of success on the merits of the claim
    3. That these interests outweigh the harm the defendant will suffer from granting the injunctive relief

    The new standard requires only “reasonable cause” to believe an employee has been unlawfully discharged or subjected to adverse action.