Continuing with last weeks post, here comes 2015, and along with the New Year comes a proliferation of new laws. Clicking on “bill information” lets you peruse the list for yourself. These laws, passed by the state legislature and signed by Governor Jerry Brown, became effective January 1, 2015, unless the bill says otherwise.
Sexual Assault on College Campuses: SB 968 provides California colleges and universities with a standard with which to judge the growing problem of alleged sexual assaults on campus. The standard requires” an affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity. “The Press-Enterprise article explains that this means that silence or lack of resistance can no longer be deemed consent, (The Press-Enterprise, Focus, Legislation, New State Laws, p. A-6.
Mandatory Paid Sick Days: AB 1522 (officially titled The Healthy Workplace, Healthy Families Act of 2014) requires California employers to pay employees up to three paid sick days per year. This provision adds new sections to Labor Code 245-249 and applies to most employees who work at least 30 days in California in a year from the date of hire. Other specific provisions apply. For a detailed breakdown of them see a discussion on health care reform.
Bullying: AB 2053 requires that employers with 50 or more employees who currently provide sexual harassment training to supervisors, expand the training to prevent what is termed “abusive conduct” Abusive conduct is defined by AB 2053 as “conduct of an employer or employee in the workplace, with malice, that a reasonable person would find hostile, offensive, and unrelated to an employer’s legitimate business interests. Abusive conduct “may include repeated infliction of verbal abuse, such as use of derogatory remarks, insults, and epithets, verbal or physical conduct that a reasonable person would find threatening, intimidating, or humiliating, or the gratuitous sabotage or undermining of a person’s work performance. For more discussion see the link above relating to the discussion on health care reform.
Harassment/Discrimination of unpaid interns and volunteers: AB 1443 provides that harassment and discrimination protections afforded to employees also be extended to interns and volunteers (non-employees). FEHA,(Fair Employment and Housing Act) under California law, is amended to provide protection from discrimination on the basis of race, disability, religion and protection from sexual harassment to this same group.
OSHA Reporting Requirements: AB 326 requires that an employer immediately notify OSHA of serious injury, illness or death on the job. Lessor injuries allow the employer 5 days to report, and the statute provides monetary penalties for failure to do so.
In sum, it appears that the legislature in its last session tried to make California a safer and more humane place to live and work for man and beast alike. Changes were made that put real teeth into the law, and in some instances provide monetary penalties for those who break it. The law is often aspirational, that is, what we would like to be; more decent, honest and humane. When legislation comes from such motives, the state and its workplaces are better for it. As my grandfather used to say, “You only hit what you aim for”. The moral of the story is to aim higher for a better California.