Thursday, October 19, 2017

New California Laws Expand Parental Leave to Small Employers and Prohibit Questions About Salary History

Last week, Governor Brown signed two bills into law aimed at protecting California families and curtailing gender discrimination. The first, SB 63, expands parental leave for millions of Californians who work for employers with 20 to 49 employees. The second, AB 168, prohibits employers in California from asking job applicants about their prior salary history.

SB 63: New Parent Leave Act

Prior to the enactment of SB 63 (also known as the New Parent Leave Act), the California Family Rights Act (“CFRA”) guaranteed new parents up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to bond with a new child, but only if their employer counted 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius. SB 63 ensures that workers for employers with at least 20 employees in a 75-mile radius also get 12 weeks of unpaid leave, so long as the worker has been with the employer at least 12 months and has at least 1,250 hours of service during that period.

The leave requirements apply equally to births, adoptions, and foster care placements. Under SB 63, employers are also prohibited from discriminating or retaliating against employees for exercising their right to parental leave.

SB 63 also includes a mediation provision, which permits the employer to compel mediation of any civil action arising under the Act and prevents the employee from filing suit until mediation is completed (the statute of limitations is tolled during the pendency of mediation). Governor Brown declined to sign a similar version of the bill last year because it did not include mediation. The mediation provision is a two-year pilot program, which is set to expire on January 1, 2020.

SB 63’s sponsor, Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson of Santa Barbara, estimated that the bill would expand parental leave protections to 2.7 million parents in California, who were left unprotected by CFRA. The reasons for guaranteeing parents a bare minimum of twelve weeks leave to bond with a new child do not require much explanation. Substantial scientific research indicates that increased bonding time between parents and a new baby creates significant benefits in both the short term – such as reduced infant mortality – and long term – such as positive impacts on brain development.

AB 168: Use of Salary History Prohibited

AB 168 follows in the footsteps of an ordinance passed in San Francisco this past summer (as well as similar measures in New York City, Philadelphia, Delaware, Massachusetts, and Oregon) and aims to combat pay discrimination. The law is based on substantial research indicating that an employer’s reliance on prior salary history to determine compensation has the effect of perpetuating gender-based pay disparities. For instance, a 2013 study by the American Association of University Women concluded that women are paid 6.6% less than men in their first jobs, which could not be explained by factors other than gender. This wage gap only perpetuates and expands over a female worker’s career when a primary determinant of her salary is what she has earned in the past.

Specifically, AB 168 prohibits private and public employers from asking all applicants about their salary history and from relying on salary history to determine what salary to offer the applicant. Employers must also provide applicants with the pay scale for a position, upon request. However, if the applicant voluntarily discloses prior salary history, the employer may rely on that information to determine the applicant’s salary.

The measure complements California’s Fair Pay Act, which was recently amended to prohibit employers from maintaining pay secrecy policies, which have also been shown to perpetuate the gender wage gap.

Both SB 63 and AB 168 go into effect January 1, 2018. If you are an employee in California and you believe that your rights have been violated with respect to parental leave or questions about salary history, please contact Bryan Schwartz Law.

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