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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.

A California appellate court has ruled that California’s WARN Act, which requires 60 days advance notice of “mass layoffs,” applies to temporary layoffs and furloughs.  The case (Boilermakers Local 1998 v. Nassco Holdings, Inc.) involved a shipbuilding company that laid off about 90 employees for three to five weeks during a workload lull.  The employees were notified on the day the layoff began.  Their union sued for violation of California’s WARN Act.  The trial court ruled in favor of the union and the appellate court affirmed. 

Tags: WARN Act

The situation is a familiar one.   Disgruntled current or former employees leave negative and harmful comments about their employer on online workplace review websites such as glassdoor.com or vault.com, or on customer review sites such as yelp.com.  Until recently, employers had little recourse.  Website operators are generally immune from liability under the federal Communications Decency Act of 1996, and they historically have objected strenuously, on First Amendment and privacy grounds, to identifying persons who post defamatory comments anonymously on their websites.

Last month a California appellate court held that an employer violates California law by paying inside sales employees on a draw against commission. In Vaquero v. Stoneledge Furniture LLC, the court held that such a pay arrangement does not compensate employees for their mandatory paid rest breaks.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that a circuit that for years has held that staring can constitute sexual harassment would find that excessive hugging may be illegal, too.  The 9th Circuit (which covers California and other western states) in Zetwick v. County of Yolo, held that it is for a jury to decide whether a male county sheriff’s hugging of a female correctional officer amounted to unlawful harassment.

Time was, answering the question “What is the minimum wage?” was simple.  There was the federal minimum wage and the state minimum wage, and for most California employers, only the latter number really mattered.  Now the answer to the question is “It depends.”  As California employers begin a new year they face a confusing patchwork of laws regarding the minimum wage.

The new president will likely bring substantial shifts in federal government policy, but California employers will be less affected by the changes because California has so many of its own employment laws. Here are some predictions regarding how California employers might be affected by potential changes in the law under President Trump.

One of the many ballot propositions facing California voters on November 8 will be Proposition 64, known as the “Adult Use of Marijuana Act.”  If enacted it will legalize the private recreational use of marijuana by persons 21 years of age or older.  It will also make it lawful for each person to grow up to six marijuana plants for personal use.  It will tax and regulate the growth and sale of marijuana as well.

On October 5, 2016, the Director of California’s Department of Industrial Relations set new minimum pay rates for next year for certain professionals exempt from overtime.  Effective January 1, 2017, exempt computer professionals must be paid at least $42.35 per hour, or a minimum salary of $7,352.62 monthly or $88,231.36 annually.  Also beginning January 1, 2017, hourly paid physicians and surgeons must be paid at least $77.15 per hour to be eligible for the professional exemption from overtime.

When the Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted in 1990, one of the “reasonable accommodations” contemplated was allowing seeing-eye dogs to accompany blind persons in places where animals were not otherwise allowed. That mandate did not prove problematic, as these dogs are highly-trained to perform their function of guiding a blind person, and to avoid being a nuisance.  As the definition of disability under the ADA has broadened, however, more and more people are seeking to have their animals accompany them to work, and to stores, restaurants and other businesses.  It’s not just dogs anymore, either. Cats, birds, horses, rodents and even potbellied pigs have been characterized as “service animals” or “comfort animals” needed as an accommodation.  The rules differ with respect to whether employees or customers are involved.

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