Minimum Wage, New Labor Laws, Pay

2017 LABOR LAW CHANGES

The legislature passed many new employment laws or tinkered with old ones.  Below are a three of the most significant changes.

MINIMUM WAGE INCREASE

 In California, the minimum wage will increase to $10.50 per hour on January 1, 2017 for employers who have more than 25 employees.  The people of San Diego passed a ballot proposition in June that increased the minimum wage to $10.50 per hour and will further increase it to $11.50 per hour on January 1, 2017.  Workers get the highest minimum wage rate among federal, state, or local minimum wage laws.

The Federal Minimum Wage will not change for now, but one aspect of it might.  On December 1, 2016, the minimum salary for exempt employees was scheduled to increase to $47,476.00 per year.  That is more than double the old federal minimum salary requirement and is higher than most state minimum salary requirements.  However, a judge in Texas recently ruled that the law would NOT go into effect on December 1.  It might go into effect later; however, the judge may permanently bar the change.  Either way, the judge’s ruling will probably get appealed.

The minimum salary in California will increase to $43,680.00 for exempt employees on January 1, but only for employees who work for employers who employ more than 25 employees.  Why does the state minimum salary distinguish between employers who employ more or less than 25 employees?

The answer is the way in which the minimum wage works in California.  The minimum salary in California is twice the state minimum wage times the number of hours a full- time worker, at 40 hours per week, works in a year.  In other words, the number of hours the state presumes a full-time worker to work in a year is 2080 hours.  Two Thousand Eighty hours times $21 per hour (twice the $10.50 state minimum wage for employers who employ 26 or more employees) equals $43,680.00.  As of January 1, that will be the minimum salary for exempt employees who work for an employer who employs at least 26 employees.  The state minimum wage for all other employees (those who work for an employer who employs fewer than 26 workers) is $10 per hour.  Thus, for employers who employ 25 or fewer employees, the minimum annual salary for exempt workers is $41,600.00 (2 x $10/hour x 2080 hours) or $800.00 per week.

The California minimum wage rate will increase every year through 2023.  The scheduled increases are below:

For employers who employ at least 26 employees:

  1. On January 1, 2017, the minimum wage will increase to $10.50 per hour.
  2. On January 1, 2018, the minimum wage will increase to $11 per hour.
  3. On January 1, 2019, the minimum wage will increase to $12 per hour.
  4. On January 1, 2020, the minimum wage will increase to $13 per hour.
  5. On January 1, 2021, the minimum wage will increase to $14 per hour.
  6. On January 1, 2022, the minimum wage will increase to $15 per hour.

For employers who employ 25 or fewer employees:

  1. On January 1, 2018, the minimum wage will increase to $10.50 per hour.
  2. On January 1, 2019, the minimum wage will increase to $11 per hour.
  3. On January 1, 2020, the minimum wage will increase to $12 per hour.
  4. On January 1, 2021, the minimum wage will increase to $13 per hour.
  5. On January 1, 2022, the minimum wage will increase to $14 per hour.
  6. On January 1, 2023, the minimum wage will increase to $15 per hour.

The minimum yearly salary for exempt employees will increase by twice the minimum wage times 2080 hours.  The governor has the ability to delay implementation of the above minimum wage schedules.

FAIR PAY ACT

In 2015, California amended Labor Code §1197.5 to prevent employers from retaliating against employees who make Fair Pay Act claims.  That law also made it easier for employees to prove unequal gender pay.  On January 1, 2017, the law will now allow employees to make Fair Pay Act claims based on differences in pay between employees of different races and ethnicities as well as gender.  In addition, past salary levels cannot justify lower pay.

CHOICE OF LAW AND FORUM SELECTION CLAUSES

California Labor Code §925 was passed this year and will go into effect on January 1, 2017.  It prevents employment contracts from forcing California workers to bring their claims outside of California when they live and work in California.  It also prevents employers from forcing employees to be governed by the law of another state.  Out of state employers who hire California workers to perform work in California will not be allowed to use handbook provisions or employment contract provisions to force California workers to bring claims out of state and under another state’s laws.  Often, the employment laws of another state favor the employer.  Of course, trying to litigate in a different state significantly burdens most California workers.  In contrast, Labor Code §925 will allow California employees to file claims in California under California law.

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New Labor Laws, Uncategorized

NEW CALIFORNIA LABOR LAWS IN 2016

We are in the middle of February and a slate of new labor laws have been in place of nearly two months.  Just to make sure that all employers are aware of them, I thought I would publish this article to describe some of the most important new labor laws.

GENDER PAY EQUALITY

The gender equality pay law under Labor Code §1197.5 has some important changes.  These changes will make it easier for employees to make claims.  The law allows an employee to sue if an employer retaliates against an employee for making unequal pay claim based on gender.  Additionally, unequal pay no longer needs to happen in the same establishment.  Thus, an employee at one location can make a claim for disparate pay that occurs at another location.  Further, an employee of one sex can make a claim for unequal pay when an employee of the opposite sex gets greater pay for: “substantially similar work, when viewed as a composite of skill, effort, and responsibility.”  That standard will be easier to prove than the old “equal work” standard.  Finally, employers can defend sex wage differentials when they are based on: (1) Seniority System, (2) Merit System, (3) Systems that pay based on quantity or quality of production, and (4) Factors such as education, training, or experience, but only if pay differential is a “business necessity”, job related, and not derived from a sex-based differential.

CANNOT RETALIATE AGAINST AN EMPLOYEE WHO ASKS FOR A DISABILITY OR RELIGIOUS ACCOMMODATION

An appellate court said that asking for an accommodation based on religion or disability was not protected.  A new law makes retaliating against an employee asking for that type of accommodations an illegal, and, if an employer does retaliate, the employee may sue.

EMPLOYERS HAVE THE RIGHT TO CURE MINOR PAY STUB VIOLATIONS.

Recently, employers have faced huge penalties for not putting accurate pay period dates and employer addresses on pay stubs.  Employers now have the right to “cure” those types of pay stub inaccuracies.  Specifically, if the pay period dates or the employer address is not accurate, then employers may fix those inaccuracies without penalty, but they may only do so once in any 12-month period.

MINIMUM WAGE IS $10 PER HOUR

            A law passed in 2013 increased the minimum wage to $9 per hour in 2014.  The second half of that law came into effect on January 1 of this year, and made the minimum wage $10 per hour throughout California.

CANNOT RETALIATE AGAINST FAMILY MEMBERS OF WHISTLE BLOWERS

When one family member blows the whistle on an employer, the employer may not retaliate against a non-complaining family member who also works for that employer.  Further, employers who contract for labor face the same family member retaliation liability as any other employer faces.

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