Important updates on laws employers should know when hiring employees 

Every year the California legislature has new laws in virtually every aspect of business, and the area of human resources is no exception.The good news is we are often given advance notice, so employers have time to see how the requirements pertain to their own organization and take steps to comply by mandated deadlines.The not so good news is that while these requirements are publicized, they are easily overlooked by business owners and managers who are always juggling a variety of challenges managing their business, providing products and services, while always thinking ahead for sales and marketing strategies and watching cash flow. Running a business is not for the faint hearted for sure!

In the last few years there have been important changes to the acceptable information you can collect from applicants. Beginning in 2017, employers need to comply with “Ban the Box” laws which prohibit inquiring about criminal history on applications for employment. Hiring managers may only ask for this information after an offer of employment has been made to the candidate. The candidate then has an opportunity to explain past infractions giving the employer a choice to move forward with or rescind the offer.

In 2018, another important change on employment application materials is the removal of any questions about salary history. This is in response to the “Fair PayAct” which was put in place for pay equity between men and women. This Act is designed to eliminate disparity of wages between men and women and forces the employer to determine wages based on the value of the position to the hiring organization and the candidates’ salary expectations. It eliminates any tendencies for employers to offer a job based on salary history which, even today, can be very different between men and women. 

The turn of the new decade has brought more requirements in employment practices. Changes effective January 1 this year include the elimination of mandatory arbitration agreements. Up to now it has been a common practice that employees must waive their rights to civil litigation to resolve employment disputes. In fact, employees were expected to sign an agreement to arbitrate an employment dispute as a condition of employment. This new California law is expected to be disputed in court as it conflicts with Federal Law, so stay tuned for continued developments on this issue.

There are related legal exposures to breaching arbitration agreements already in place. Employers using arbitration agreements need to proceed with caution and should seek professional guidance.

Finally, any employer with more than five employees is required to provide harassment prevention training to all employees. Training curriculum and instructors must meet qualifications spelled out in SB778. The training must be complete by January 1, 2021. Watch for details in future articles.

Compliance with employment laws differ based on number of employees and industries. And while all this information may seem overwhelming, confusing or frustrating you can take comfort in knowing there are a lot of resources to help. Reach out to an employment attorney or human resource expert who handles these issues every day. There are also online resources that provide tools and guidance so you can focus on what you know best.