Important New Laws Involving Employee Rights in California

Frank S. Clowney III

Governor Gavin Newsom signed dozens of bills at the close of the 2019 legislative session. This includes 15 that impact the rights of employees. Below is a brief overview of the key changes that are noteworthy for California workers beginning in 2020.

  • AB 9 — FEHA’s statute of limitations extended
  • This bill extends the deadline from one year to three years for allegations involving harassment, discrimination or civil rights violations covered under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) in the workplace. This will also be six-times longer than the federal statute of limitations. However, the bill did not revive lapsed claims.
  • AB51 – prohibition of arbitration
  • This bill prohibits employers from insisting that employees or potential hires waive the right to arbitration or other rights provided by FEHA or the Labor Code. Moreover, employers cannot threaten, retaliate against or dismiss workers who refuse to waive their rights.
  • AB 749 — settlement agreements
  • This bill voids “no rehire” provisions entered on or after January 1, 2020. There are, however, several exceptions that include the employee engaged in sexual harassment, assault in the workplace or other non-discriminatory or non-retaliatory reasons.
  • SB 688 – unpaid wages
  • This expands the Labor Commissioner’s power to pursue and penalize employers for not paying wages contractually promised. It also applies to agreed-upon amounts when these are less than the minimum wage.
  • AB 673 – recovering unpaid wages through civil suits
  • Employees need not wait for the Labor Commissioner. They are now entitled to $100 each time the employer fails to pay wages. This amount is doubled for subsequent intentional or willful violations. Employers are also liable for 25% of the amount that is unlawfully withheld and cause certain Labor Code violations.

Employees must protect their rights

California laws are quite clear in protecting the rights of employees, but this does not stop unscrupulous companies from exploiting or antagonizing workers. This can mean that there will be a time where employees must protect their rights as a person and worker. Those with questions about these laws may wish to speak with qualified employment law attorney with experience representing workers here in California.