California is ahead of the United States in many ways in passing and upholding laws designed to protect employees. New laws recently adopted by the legislature add a few more protections that employers should be aware of:
- Delayed Background Checks: Previously, an employer could run a background check on an individual before hiring them. New legislation requires an offer be issued to a potential employee before the employer can run a background check. As a result, employers need to adjust offer language to make an offer contingent on certain checks such as a drug screen and background check. With a slight adjustment in language, employers can wait until after they’ve made an offer to run a background check on someone and ensure they’re not hiring a felon.
- No Interview Questions About Previous Salary: While questions about marital status and family plans are already prohibited during the interview phase, new legislation aimed at equalizing the pay gap for women also prohibits employers asking about an interviewee’s previous salary. The theory is that, without being tied to their previous, possibly lower, salaries, women will be in a better position to negotiate fair pay that is more on par with their male colleagues. California is considering a number of other steps, including mandatory reporting for larger businesses, to ensure that women are being paid equally for equal work.
- Maternity Leave: The state of California provides the right for most employees to take maternity leave during and after their pregnancy and generally are required to return them to the same position when their leave is up. New California law also requires companies with at least 20 employees to also offer 12 weeks unpaid family bonding leave as well. Employees cannot be discriminated against or fired based on their pregnancy. For example, employers cannot fire an employee when she becomes pregnant or is experiencing medical conditions related to her pregnancy or refuse to hire a woman because she may one day become pregnant.
- Minimum Wage: Minimum wage in the state of California is currently set at $10.50 per hour for companies with 25 or less employees and $11 per hour otherwise. Cities such as Los Angeles, Pasadena, and Santa Monica have already enacted a higher minimum wage than the California standard. Minimum wage will increase each January 1 as part of the state’s legislation goal to increase all workers to a $15 per hour minimum wage by 2022 and 2023, depending on the size of the company.