California Governor Helps Employers By Vetoing Several Pending Bills
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger had until midnight, October 14, 2007 to act upon all of the legislation that had been pending on his desk. That deadline has now passed, and Governor Schwarzenegger used this time, at least in part, to convey his support for employers within California.
While noting that “California has the strongest employment leave and workplace protection laws in the country,” Governor Schwarzenegger returned without signature three bills aimed at expanding employees’ rights to take time off. Assembly Bill 537 would have expanded the circumstances under which an employee is entitled to take leave under California’s Family and Medical Leave act to include: (1) time off to care for an ill child, regardless of the child’s age or dependency status; (2) an expanded definition of the term “parent” to include the employee’s parent-in-law; and (3) time off to care for an employee’s ill grandparent, sibling, grandchild or domestic partner. Similarly, Senate Bill 727 would have expanded the definitions of individuals who are eligible for temporary disability insurance benefits. Senate Bill 549, if passed, would have required all employers to provide eligible employees with up to four days bereavement leave.
Other laws that Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed include:
Senate Bill 836, which would have expanded workplace protections to include “familial status” as a basis upon which employers could not discriminate or retaliate against employees.
Assembly Bill 1707, which would have provided for a $750 penalty against all employers who do not meet certain delineated requirements regarding providing current and former employees the opportunity to inspect and make copies of their personnel files.
Senate Bill 622, which in Governor Schwarzenegger’s words would have created “new and redundant exposure to litigation [and] may cause businesses to avoid use of the independent contractor model even where it may be appropriately utilized.”
Assembly Bill 435, which would have allowed employees to recover liquidated damages in minimum wage complaints brought before the Labor Commissioner.
Assembly Bill 504, which would have required employers to pay restitution to striking employees under certain, newly-delineated circumstances.
Assembly Bill 8, which would have, among other things, imposed a tax on small employers who could not afford to provide health insurance coverage to employees in order to fund health care coverage for those who do not currently provide insurance benefits.
These are just a few of the 214 bills that Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed during 2007. During 2007, he also signed 750 bills into law. These are just some of the laws impacting employers that were acted upon.
California Adopts Military Spouse Leave Law
Effective immediately, California employers must, under certain circumstances, provide up to ten days of unpaid leave to employees who have spouses in the military.
On October 9, 2007, Governor Schwarzenegger signed into law Assembly Bill 392. AB 392 adds a section to the California Military and Veteran’s Code to permit the spouse of an individual in the military to take time off from work while the military spouse is on leave from deployment.
Who is affected?
The new law applies to all employers with 25 or more employees. To be eligible for the leave, the employee must work at least an average of 20 hours per week and have a spouse who is on active duty for any of the United States Armed Forces, National Guard or Army Reserves, in an area of military conflict.
What must an employee seeking this time off do?
To be entitled to the unpaid ten days off from work, the employee must provide notice to the employer, no later than two business days after receiving an “official notice” that the spouse will be on leave from deployment, that the employee intends to take time off from work during the leave from deployment. Further, the employee must provide “written documentation, certifying” that the spouse will be on leave from deployment.
While the statute presumes that the employee will “request” the time off, there are no circumstances specified under which the employer may deny the leave, or request that the leave be taken at some other time during the spouse’s period of deployment.
Employers’ Bottom Line:
There are uncertainties about this law. For example, as noted above, the law does not address whether an employer has flexibility to ask that the ten-day leave be scheduled in accordance with business operational needs. As a result, it is recommended that employers provide as much flexibility as possible when faced with requests for leave under this new law. The new law prohibits retaliation against an employee for asserting rights under this section.
California employers must provide a number of different types of leave to employees. Employers must not only provide leave for obvious reasons (such as due to disabilities, family leave, pregnancy leave, occupational leave), but also for less obvious reasons (such as substance abuse rehabilitation, attending school conferences, attending school activities, and attending adult literacy education). Failure to provide all of the necessary and legally permissible leaves can be quite costly for employers.
If you have any questions about this new law, any leaves of absence required under California law, or any other aspect of employment law, please contact the Ford & Harrison attorney with whom you usually work or the author of this article, Helene Wasserman, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 213-237-2403.