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Last year was a devastating wildfire season in California – one of the worst ever on record.  And while things are relatively quiet (thus far) in 2019, that can change in an instant.

As the 2019 legislative year is about to come to a close, there are a number of critical labor and employment proposals still making their way to Governor Newsom’s desk. With just four short weeks remaining for the Legislature to pass bills, there will be a flurry of activity as everyone watches to see which bills cross the finish line on or before the September 13 deadline.

Governor Newsom recently signed legislation to provide that prohibited employment discrimination based on race under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) also includes discrimination based on hair texture and protective hair styles.  This new law goes into effect on January 1, 2020. California employers will need to review workplace grooming standards in order to ensure compliance with the law.

A measure currently pending in the California Legislature, and garnering wide bipartisan support, would provide that prohibited employment discrimination based on race under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) also includes discrimination based upon hair texture and hairstyles.  If enacted into law, this bill will require California employers to re-evaluate workplace grooming standards applicable to their work sites in order to ensure compliance with the law.

February 22 was the last day to introduce new legislative proposals for the 2019 California legislative year. A whopping 2,576 bill were introduced before the deadline, making for an extremely busy legislative year ahead. Although new ideas can be added later through the “gut and amend” process, we now have a fairly clear sense of the labor and employment issues the California legislature will be confronting in 2019.

Any avid watcher of medical dramas would tell you that a hospital always has the ability to cut ties with any doctor who is not up to snuff. (For podcast fans we highly recommend Dr. Death.) They would tell you this is particularly true if the Department of Health points out that doctor’s errors.

It’s official: California’s infamous meal period and rest break laws no longer apply to truck drivers regulated by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s hours-of-service requirements. Following a petition from the American Trucking Association (ATA), the Secretary of Transportation deemed California’s onerous meal and rest break laws to be preempted by federal law on December 21, and therefore no longer enforceable as to any driver whose hours of service are regulated by the Department of Transportation.

On January 1, 2019, the state minimum wage in California increased again.  It is now $12.00 per hour for employers of 26 or more employees and $11.00 per hour for employers of 25 or fewer employees.  Local minimum wages are increasing as well.  On January 1, 2019, the minimum wage in the City of San Diego increased to $12.00 per hour for all employers, and the minimum wage in the City of Oakland increased to $13.80 per hour.  In the City of Los Angeles and unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County the minimum wage will increase on July 1, 2019 to $14.25 for employers of 26 or more employees and $13.25 for employers of 25 or fewer employees.  On July 1, 2019 the minimum wage in San Francisco will increase according to the increase in the Consumer Price Index.  Other cities, including Berkeley, Emeryville, Pasadena, Sacramento, San Jose, Santa Clara and Santa Monica, have their own minimum wages.  California employers should check on each jurisdiction in which have employees to determine whether a higher minimum wage than the state minimum applies.

December 3 was the first day of the new legislative session in California. It was a day of festivities and ceremony, as new members were sworn into office and Democrats had their first taste of the “super-duper majority” dominance in both houses of the legislature.

While much of the attention this midterm election has been focused on Congress and federal issues - the “blue wave” and a “referendum” on the Trump presidency - California employers know all too well that employment and labor policy is largely being driven at the state and local level. The split in Congress between the Republican-led Senate and the Democrat-controlled House means that we can expect continued gridlock and lack of significant federal legislation on employment issues.

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