2016 New California Laws

New California laws include the following:

California remains a leading jurisdiction which protects the privacy rights for electronic data. The new 2016 law prohibits government agencies from gaining access to electronic communications or electronic device information without a search warrant or other appropriate order issued by the court. “Electronic communication information means any information about an electronic communication or the use of an electronic communication service, including, but not limited to, the contents, sender, recipients, format, or location of the sender or recipients at any point during the communication, the time or date the communication was created, sent, or received, or any information pertaining to any individual or device participating in the communication, including, but not limited to, an IP address.” “Electronic device means a device that stores, generates, or transmits information in electronic form.”

Another 2016 law further defines personal information businesses are required to protect, which now also includes “health insurance information, and a username or email address combined with a password or security question and answer for access to an online account.” Businesses are required to maintain reasonable security procedures and practices appropriate to the nature of the information, to protect the personal information from unauthorized access, destruction, use, modification, or disclosure.

California’s new gender wage equality law revisions prohibit an employer from paying any of its employees at wage rates less than those paid to employees of the opposite sex for substantially similar work, when viewed as a composite of skill, effort, and responsibility, even if the wage differential is from different establishments or locations. The employer must affirmatively demonstrate that a wage differential is based upon one or more specified factors, including a seniority system, a merit system, a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, or a bona fide factor other than sex. The law requires the employer to demonstrate that each factor relied upon is applied reasonably, and that the one or more factors relied upon account for the entire differential. The law prohibits an employer from discharging, or in any manner discriminating or retaliating against, any employee by reason of any action taken by the employee to invoke or assist in any manner the enforcement of these provisions. The law authorizes an employee who has been discharged or discriminated or retaliated against, in the terms and conditions of his or her employment because the employee engaged in any conduct to exercise rights under this law, to recover in a civil action reinstatement and reimbursement for lost wages and work benefits caused by the acts of the employer, including interest thereon, as well as appropriate equitable relief.

The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) , protects persons from discrimination in employment on account of race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, age, sexual orientation, or military and veteran status. FEHA requires an employer covered by the act to provide a reasonable accommodation for a person’s disability and religious beliefs and prohibits discrimination against any person because the person has exercised the rights under FEHA or because the person has filed a complaint. The new 2016 changes to FEHA explicitly prohibits an employer covered from retaliating or discriminating against a person for requesting an accommodation for his or her disability or religious beliefs, regardless of whether the accommodation request was granted.

New 2016 revisions to the Labor Code authorize the Labor Commissioner to enforce monetary damages for wages, penalties, and other demands for compensation for violations of specified labor law provisions regulating hours and days of work. The Labor Commissioner may use any of the existing remedies available to a judgment creditor and may act as a levying officer when enforcing a judgment pursuant to a writ of execution. This will greatly assist employees for violations of labor law provisions by the employer. New Labor Code Section 558.1 creates personal liability for persons acting on behalf of the employer if that person is an owner, director, officer or managing agent of the employer.

The California Unruh Civil Rights Act was amended and now states “ …(b) All persons within the jurisdiction of this state are free and equal, and no matter what their sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sexual orientation, citizenship, primary language, or immigration status are entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services in all business establishments of every kind whatsoever.” The underlined categories are the 2016 explicitly stated prohibition against discrimination which the statute explains “…does not constitute a change in, but is declaratory of, existing law…”