California’s New Laws in the New Year

2017 will usher in several new or enhanced laws that touch on a myriad of issues ranging from gun control to minimum wage. Following is a brief synopsis of some of the key laws that will impact Californians beginning January 1.

Assault Weapons

People who own magazines that hold more than ten rounds are required to give them up. In addition, buyers must undergo a background check before purchasing ammunition and buyers are barred from buying new weapons that have a device known as a bullet button. A bullet button allows a shooter to quickly dislodge the magazine using the tip of a bullet.

Building Safety

State and local agencies are now required to share information between them about contractors, convictions and legal settlements. A working group will have one year to decide whether changes are needed to state building codes after several structure failures.

Child Safety Seats

Children younger than two years of age must be in rear-facing child restraint systems unless they weigh 40 pounds or more or are at least 40 inches tall or taller.

Choice of Law and Forum in Employment Contracts

Employers are now prohibited from requiring California-based employees to enter into agreements (including arbitration agreements) that require them to adjudicate claims arising in California in a non-California forum; or litigate their claims under the law of another jurisdiction unless the employee was represented by counsel. The law requires that any disputes shall be adjudicated in California under California law and the employee is entitled to recover reasonable attorneys’ fees.

Criminal History in Applications for Employment

Employers are now prohibited from asking applicants to disclose, or from utilizing as a factor in determining any condition of employment, information concerning or related to “an arrest, detention, process, diversion, supervision, adjudication, or court disposition that occurred while the person was subject to the process and jurisdiction of juvenile court law.”

Epipens

Businesses can now stock EpiPens—a medical device used to treat people undergoing life-threatening allergic reactions—provided the business has a plan in place for their use.

Handgun Storage

Law enforcement officers are now required to follow the same rules as civilians for securely storing handguns in a lockbox out of plain view; or in the trunk if the weapons are left in an unattended vehicle.

Human Trafficking

Young people under 18 cannot be charged with prostitution and will instead be treated as victims. Also, the age children can testify outside a courtroom is raised from 13 years to 15 years. Victims’ names are also now protected from disclosure and now they also have mandatory access to county services.

Immigration Related Unfair Practices

Employers who are in the process of verifying that workers have the necessary documentation to work in the United States are prohibited from requesting of such workers more documents or different documents than are required under federal law; to refuse to honor documents tendered that on their face reasonably appear to be genuine; to refuse to honor documents or work authorization based upon the specific status or term of status that accompanies the authorization to work; or to reinvestigate or re-verify an incumbent employee’s authorization to work. Any person who is deemed in violation of this new law is subject to a penalty imposed by the Labor Commissioner of up to $10,000.

Itemized Wage Statements

Employers are not required to include in itemized wage statements, the total number of work hours by an exempt employee. (An exempt employee is exempt from the payment of minimum wage and overtime under the California Labor Code or other applicable Wage Orders.) However, employers must continue to include the total hours worked by non-exempt employees in the itemized wage statements for each pay period.

Minimum Wage Increase

California’s minimum wage will increase from $10 an hour to $10.50 for businesses with 26 or more employees. The law delays the increases by one year for smaller employers.

Minimum Wage Violations

The labor code now requires that prior to an employer appealing a citation by the Labor Commissioner against the employer for violation of wage and hour laws, the employer must post a bond with the Labor Commissioner in an amount equal to the unpaid wages assessed under the Labor Commissioner’s citation, excluding penalties. The bond must be in favor of the employee and will be forfeited to the employee if the employer fails to pay the amounts owed within 10 days from the conclusion of the proceedings.

Right-to-Try

Terminally ill patients in California are now allowed to use experimental drugs that do not yet have full regulatory approval. Health Plans are authorized but not required to cover investigational drugs and physicians are protected from disciplinary action if they recommend them when other treatment options have been exhausted.

School Mascots

California public schools are now barred from using the name “Redskins” for sports teams and mascots.

Sexual Assault

Sexually assaulting an unconscious or severely intoxicated person is now a crime ineligible for probation. Also, it is now enshrined in law that a victim cannot consent to sex while unconscious or incapacitated by drugs, alcohol or medication.

Talent Services

Provides additional protections to artists for their information or photographs to any form of communication such as an online service, online application, or mobile application of the talent service or one that the talent service has the authority to design or alter.

Texting While Driving

California’s existing ban on texting while driving now makes it indisputably clear that state’s ban on texting applies to the use of any hand-held device in a way that distracts from driving—not just while texting. Drivers can still use devices that are mounted or voice-operated and hands-free.

Wage Discrimination and Application to Race and Ethnicity

Under the Fair Pay Act, which went into effect on January 1, 2016, existing law generally prohibits an employer from paying an employee at wage rates less than the rates paid to employees of the opposite sex in the same establishment for equal work on jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions. Effective January 1, 2017, these protections are expanded to include employees’ race or ethnicity, and not just gender.

Words by S.E. Williams

Illustrations by Andre Loftis Jr

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