New Employment Laws, 2013 – Part 2

Last week, we discussed some of the new labor laws in California which came into effect on January 1, 2013. In this follow-up blog, we detail another set of labor laws that employers should be aware of.

Disability Claims Abuses (SB 1186) – SB 1186 is intended to curb a form of vexatious litigation, in which “aggrieved” plaintiffs go around suing businesses for minor, technical violations of disability laws. SB 1186 caps damages at $1,000 (down from $4,000) for any defendant who remedies the violation within 60 days of being served the complaint. For small businesses, the cap will be $2,000, with a timeframe of 30 days from service of the complaint. Also, courts can now take into consideration the plaintiff’s conduct (such as a failure to mitigate damages) when assessing the awarding of attorney’s fees.

Hands-Free Operations while Driving (AB 1536) – In 2008, California banned the use of cell phones and other such electronic devices while driving. AB 1536 amends this law to allow for hands-free operation of such devices (such as via Bluetooth attachments). AB 1536 also clarifies that activating or deactivating electronic devices while driving is permissible.

Secure Choice Retirement Savings Trust Act (SB 1234) – To address the issue that some private employers fail to provide retirement benefits for their employees, SB 1234 enacts the Secure Choice Retirement Savings Trust Act, which requires employers with more than five employees to offer payroll deduction retirement programs (employees can choose to opt-out).

Depositions Limited to Seven Hours (AB 1875) – This bill amends Code of Civil Procedure § 2025.290(b)(4), by capping the time limit for depositions to a one-day, seven-hour session. However, there are many exceptions (expert witnesses, employment cases, parties can agree to opt-out, etc.).

Mediation not Required for Fact-finding Requests (AB 1606) – Beginning on January 1, 2012, employee organizations (unions) representing local public agency employees could request fact-finding to resolve collective bargaining impasses. AB 1606 amends Government Code § 3505.4 to clarify that mediation is NOT a prerequisite to these fact-finding requests.

School Employees Receive Paid Leave for Organizational Activities (AB 1203) – Education Code 45210 and 88210 specify that school employees who serve as elected officers of a public employee organization (union) receive paid leave by the school district (this amount is reimbursed by the employee organization). AB 1203 amends these code sections to include non-elected officers as well.

Longer Notice Period for Layoffs of Classified School Employees (AB 1908) – Before AB 1908, school districts had to give employees who were going to be laid off at least 45 days’ notice. AB 1908 increases this time requirement to 60 days.