COMP NEWS – California is preparing to strengthen several employment laws in an effort to fight forms of wage theft and strengthen labor rights. One of the biggest changes in the upcoming provisions would make failure to pay wages a felony of “grand theft.”
Under current law, employers who wrongfully and intentionally withhold wages from employees may be convicted of a misdemeanor. AB 1003 increases the potential punishment and makes it a felony if an employer, acting intentionally, wrongfully fails to pay wages in an amount greater than $950 to one employee, or $2,350 in the aggregate to two or more employees, within a 12-month period.
California employment laws are already among the most robust (or restrictive, depending on your view) in the United States. The California Family Rights Act, one of the first job-protected leave laws of its kind in the nation, is being expanded.
The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) requires employers with five or more employees to provide up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave in a 12-month period to employees who have worked for at least one year. Leave may be taken to care for the employee’s serious health condition or for serious health conditions of the employee’s family members. AB 1033 adds “parent-in-law” to the group of qualifying family members.
The bill will also give employees additional protections against confidential and non-disparagement provisions in legal settlements with ex-employers.
California law currently prohibits language within a settlement agreement that bars disclosure of factual information relating to an administrative or civil claim for sexual assault, sexual harassment, discrimination based on sex, failure to prevent such an act, or retaliation against a person for reporting such an act. SB 331 expands the prohibition to apply to any claim for workplace harassment, retaliation, or discrimination based on characteristics protected under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (such as race, religion, age, disability, etc.). Under SB 331, employers still may include language prohibiting disclosure of the settlement amount, however.
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