California is the land of employment legislation, and 2018 is shaping up to be another year of change. We are less than six months into the year, and already several bills that could significantly impact California businesses—for better or for worse—are pending in the California legislature.
#MeToo Measures: The recent surge of publicized sexual harassment claims in California has been met with an equal upswing of proposed harassment legislation. SB 820 seeks to prohibit confidentiality provisions in settlement agreements in cases involving allegations of sexual assault, sexual harassment or sex discrimination. AB 3080 takes aim at mandatory arbitration agreements by making it a misdemeanor for an employer to require employees to arbitrate claims arising under the Labor Code or the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”). SB 1300 attempts to expand FEHA’s protections by imposing liability on employers for failing to prevent harassment if the employer knows the conduct is unwelcome and knows the conduct would amount to actionable harassment if the conduct increased in severity or pervasiveness. AB 2770 seeks to protect employers from defamation claims by creating a privilege for communications regarding sexual harassment.
Pay Parity: Equal pay is another hot-button issue in California and across the country. SB 1284 proposes a data collection project that could lead to increased enforcement of California’s pay equity statute. The bill would require private employers with 100 or more employees to submit annual pay data reports that include employees’ pay data, job title and demographic information. The bill imposes a $500 penalty on noncompliant employers, but in its current form does not provide a mechanism for the state to address apparent pay differentials.
Accommodating Cannabis: AB 2069 is good news for medical marijuana users. The bill protects individuals who use marijuana to treat a known physical or mental disability or medical condition by making such use subject to reasonable accommodation. The bill also makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an employee for having a medical marijuana identification card or for their status as a qualified patient. However, the bill does not prohibit an employer from terminating an employee who is impaired at work due to cannabis use.
These bills are still making their way through the legislature and none have become law yet, but they are a good indication of the employment law topics that are top of mind for California’s legislators. We will continue to track these and other legislative developments in California and across the country.