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New California Employment Law Changes Effective January 1, 2019 and Beyond

Friday, January 18, 2019  
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New California Employment Law Changes Effective January 1, 2019 and Beyond

JD Supra - January 18, 2019

As the New Year approaches, there are several critical changes in California’s employment laws set to take effect.  Many of these changes were driven by the #MeToo movement, which marked its first anniversary in 2018 and is proving to be more than just a passing fad.  It is time to take note of these changes to the legal landscape and make sure that your business will be compliant in 2019.  Additional laws were passed in 2018 that will take effect in the future, but should be planned for now.

Minimum Wage Increase

At the outset, a reminder that California’s minimum wage increases to $12.00 per hour for employers with 26 or more employees and $11.00 per hour for employers with 25 or fewer employees.  California’s minimum wage increases will continue at the rate of $1.00 per hour until January 1, 2022 for larger employers, and January 1, 2023 for smaller employers.

Numerous cities and counties throughout California have passed their own minimum wage requirements that exceed California’s state-wide requirements and may have different effective dates.  Please check your local requirements, or contact labor and employment counsel to ensure you are in compliance.

New Restrictions On Confidentiality Of Sexual Harassment/Discrimination Settlements

Often settlement agreements include broad scope confidentiality provisions that often preclude the claimant from discussing the terms of the settlement and the underlying factual basis of the original claim.  Senate Bill 820 added a new section to the Code of Civil Procedure to limit that practice for settlement agreements entered into on or after January 1, 2019.  The new Code of Civil Procedure section 1001 prohibits confidentiality or non-disclosure provisions in settlement agreements that prevent the disclosure of factual information involving allegations of sexual misconduct – unless the party alleging the harm desires confidentiality language to protect his or her identity.

The law does not void confidentiality provisions that prevent disclosure of the amount paid in settlement of a claim.

New Restrictions Regarding Preventing Future Testimony

Another piece of legislation that requires a critical look at your settlement agreements is Assembly Bill 3109, which applies to a contract or settlement agreement entered into on or after January 1, 2019.  AB 3109 added Section 1670.11 to the Civil Code, which voids provisions in settlements that would prevent someone from testifying about alleged criminal conduct or alleged sexual harassment in an administrative, legislative, or judicial proceeding where the individual is requested to attend the proceeding pursuant to a court order, subpoena or written request from an administrative agency or the legislature.

New Protections Against Defamation Claims for Victims of Sexual Harassment and Employers

Assembly Bill 2770 modifies Civil Code section 47 to add protections for harassment victims who make complaints and for employers who make statements regarding alleged harassment to interested parties like the Department of Fair Employment and Housing or other administrative agencies.  Statements are only protected if made without malice and based upon credible evidence.


Current law protects employers, allowing them to inform an applicant’s potential future employer whether the employer would rehire an employee without being held liable for defamation.  AB 2770 expands that protection to include whether a decision not to rehire is based upon the employer’s determination that the employee engaged in sexual harassment.

New Requirements For Sexual Harassment Workplace Training

The legislature passed several bills that radically change the requirements for workplace training.  Senate Bill 1343 changes the requirements for workplace sexual harassment prevention training in the #MeToo era.  The trainings required by SB 1343 must be provided by January 1, 2020, and the DFEH has taken the position that everyone must be trained in 2019, even if properly trained during 2018.

The bill amends California Government Code Section 12950.1 and changes several workplace training requirements, including the following:

Training required by small businesses:  Employers with at least 5 employees are now required to provide training to their employees (the previous threshold being 50 employees);

Training is no longer limited to supervisory employees: Employers are now required to provide sexual harassment prevention training to all employees, including non-supervisory employees. Specifically, one hour of classroom or other effective interactive training and education regarding sexual harassment must be provided to all non-supervisory employees, and two hours of the same to supervisory employees.

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