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January 11, 2016 by

This legislative session Governor Brown again signed into law several new labor and employment statutes.  Many of the new laws this year expand enforcement tools and strengthen existing protections for employees in areas including leave and disability rights, pay equity, wage and hour protections, and prevailing wage and public works.  In this series of seven articles, we have summarized the new state laws by category.

SB 358 – Equal Pay Act

SB 358 is designed to strengthen the Equal Pay Act and to help ensure that women are paid the same as men for the same work.  The new law heightens the legal standard for equal pay by prohibiting an employer from paying any of its employees less than employees of the opposite sex for “substantially similar work,” when taking into account the skill, effort, and responsibility involved to do the work.  The law also switches the burden to the employer to demonstrate affirmatively that any wage difference is based on one or more bona fide factors other than sex, such as a seniority system, a merit system, or a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production.  These changes to the law should provide additional disincentive for employers to pay female employees less than their male counterparts and make it easier for female workers to establish claims for unlawful pay discrimination.

AB 1354 – Equal Pay for Equal Work Act for State Contractors

Over the last decade, women have earned, on average, 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man.  With the new Equal Pay for Equal Work Act (Assembly Bill 1354), the Legislature has taken another step toward addressing this persistent disparity in pay on the basis of gender with new requirements for large state contractors.  The bill will also encourage state contractors to address the gender wage gap by compiling data on gender wage inequity and by requiring contractors to submit nondiscrimination programs to the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, the state agency tasked with enforcing state anti-discrimination laws.  Under existing state and federal law, employers are already prohibited from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex, so AB 1354 takes this policy one-step further by requiring large contractors to implement nondiscrimination programs that include policies and procedures designed to ensure equal employment opportunities for applicants and employees, as well as analyses of employment selection procedures.  The new law will apply to employers with 100 or more California employees with a state contract of 30 days or more

AB 305 – Equal Protection for Workers’ Compensation

This law adds equal protections for female workers under California’s Workers’ Compensation scheme.  Under the existing Workers’ Compensation laws, a doctor is required to determine what percentage of a worker’s permanent disability is the direct result of an injury occurring in the course of employment.  The doctor must also approximate the percentage of the permanent disability that was caused by other factors both before and after the industrial injury.  This law prohibits a doctor from apportioning a percentage of the permanent disability to a worker’s pregnancy or menopause if the claimed physical injury occurred during the same time.  In addition, in the case of a psychiatric injury, this law prohibits a doctor from apportioning any permanent disability to an impairment caused by sexual harassment, pregnancy, or menopause, if the claimed psychiatric injury occurred at the same time.  Finally, any impairment ratings for breast cancer and its effects must be no less than the impairment ratings for prostate cancer and its effects.

The material on this website is provided by Beeson, Tayer & Bodine for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Readers should consult with their own legal counsel before acting on any of the information presented. Some of the articles are updated periodically, and are marked with the date of the last update. Again, readers should consult with their own legal counsel for the most current information and to obtain professional advice before acting on any of the information presented.