California Governor Vetoes Several Bad Employment Bills, But Signs Law Limiting Use of Credit Reports and a Few Others
In pleasant news for California employers, Governor Brown vetoed several unappealing employment bills this past weekend. The bills he vetoed include (1) AB 267, which would have invalidated forum selection and choice of law provisions in employment contracts with California employees, (2) AB 325, which would have required California employers to provide bereavement leave, and (3) SB 931, which would have imposed new requirements for use of payroll cards. That is the good news.
The bad news is that Governor Brown signed into law AB 22, which limits California employers’ ability to use credit reports for employment purposes. Under the new law, employers (with the exception of certain financial institutions) are prohibited from obtaining or relying on credit reports for applicants and employees, unless the report is sought in relation to (1) a position in the California Department of Justice; (2) a managerial position (defined as a position that qualifies for the executive exemption from overtime); (3) a sworn peace officer or other law enforcement position; (4) a position for which credit information is required by law to be disclosed or obtained; (5) a position that involves regular access (other than in connection with routine solicitation of credit card applications in a retail establishment) to people’s bank or credit card account information, social security number, and date of birth; (6) a position in which the employee would be a named signatory on the employer’s bank or credit card account, authorized to transfer money on behalf of the employer, or authorized to enter into financial contracts on behalf of the employer; (7) a position that involves regular access to cash totaling $10,000 or more of the employer, a customer, or client during the workday; and (8) a position that involves access to confidential or proprietary information (defined as a legal “trade secret” under Civil Code 3426.1(d)).
Even if the employer is permitted to obtain a credit report under one of the exceptions outlined above, the employer must first provide written notice to the applicant or employee, specifying the permissible basis for requesting the report and providing a box for the employee/applicant to check off to request a copy of the report, which must be provided free of charge and at the same time the employer receives its copy of the report. If employment is denied based on information in a credit report, the employer must advise the applicant/employee and provide the name and address of the credit reporting agency that supplied the report.
Other labor and employment legislation signed into law by the Governor in the last few days includes the following:
SB 459 (Misclassification of Independent Contractors): This new law creates stiff penalties for willful misclassification of employees as independent contractors. The law defines “willful” as “voluntarily and knowingly misclassifying” an individual. The law also makes it unlawful for an employer to charge an individual who has been willfully misclassified any fees or other deductions from compensation if those fees and deductions (e.g. for licenses, space rental, equipment) would have been prohibited had the individual been properly classified as an employee. In the event of a finding of willful misclassification, penalties may be assessed in the range of $5,000 to $25,000 per violation. Additionally, an employer in violation may be ordered to display prominently on its Internet web site (or other area accessible to employees and the general public) a notice that explains the employer has been found guilty of committing a serious violation of the law by willfully misclassifying employees, along with other prescribed information. The new law also imposes joint and several liability on individuals who, for money or other valuable consideration, knowingly advise an employer to treat an individual as an independent contractor to avoid employee status. Excepted from liability are employees who provide advice to their employer, and licensed attorneys providing legal advice to the employer.
AB 469 (Notice of Pay Details): This new law requires employers to provide each employee, at the time of hire, with a notice that specifies (1) the pay rate and the basis, whether hourly, salary, commission or otherwise, as well as any overtime rate, (2) allowances, if any, claimed as part of the minimum wage, including meals or lodging, (3) the regular payday, (4) the name of the employer, including any “doing business as” names used by the employer; (5) the physical address and telephone number of the employer’s main office or principal place of business, and a mailing address if different, and (6) the name, address and telephone number of the employer’s workers’ compensation carrier. The employer must notify each employee in writing of any changes to the information set forth in the notice within 7 days of the changes, unless such changes are elsewhere reflected on a timely wage statement or other writing required by law to be provided.
AB 887 (Gender Identity and Expression): This new law amends the Fair Employment and Housing Act (as well as various other laws) to make clear that discrimination on the basis of gender identity and “gender expression” is prohibited. Gender expression refers to a person’s gender-related appearance and behavior, whether or not stereotypically associated with the person’s assigned sex at birth. The new law also requires employers to allow an employee to appear or dress consistently with the employee’s gender expression.
AB 1236 (E-Verify): This new law prohibits the state, or a city or county, from requiring employers to use E-Verify as a means of verifying employees they hire are authorized to work in the United States.
AB 243 (Farm Labor Contractors): This new law requires employers who are farm labor contractors to disclose to employees the name and address of the legal entity that secured the employer’s services. This information must be disclosed as part of the employees’ itemized wage statements required by Labor Code section 226.
SB 126 (Agricultural Labor Relations): This new law deals with petitions objecting to the conduct of an election before the Agricultural Labor Relations Board and specifies that where the ALRB refuses to certify an election because of employer misconduct that, in addition to affecting the results of the election, would render slight the chances of a new election reflecting the free choice of employees, the labor union shall be certified as the exclusive bargaining agent for the bargaining unit.
Unless otherwise specified most new laws take effect January 1, 2012. California employers will want to familiarize themselves with these new laws as applicable to their workforces and operations, and revise policies and procedures accordingly.