2017 New California Laws

February 6, 2017

2017 new California Laws include the following:

California’s 2016 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 2017 revisions also prohibit an employer from paying any of its employees lower wage rates based on race or ethnicity. 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, race or ethnicity. 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.

In 2017, the Labor Code new amendments prohibit an employer from requiring an employee who primarily resides and works in California, as a condition of employment, to agree to a provision that would require the employee to adjudicate outside of California a claim arising in California or deprive the employee of the substantive protection of California law with respect to a controversy arising in California. The law addresses the rise of employers’ use of arbitration agreements to limit the rights of California employees.

The Family Code was revised to address a case which held that married couples could only be considered “living separate” when they were living in separate residences. The cases were In re Marriage of Davis (2015) 61 Cal.4th 846 and In re Marriage of Norviel (2002) 102 Cal.App.4th 1152. Now “date of separation” means the date that a complete and final break in the marital relationship has occurred, as evidenced by both of the following: (1) The spouse has expressed to the other spouse his or her intent to end the marriage and (2) The conduct of the spouse is consistent with his or her intent to end the marriage. In determining the date of separation, the court shall take into consideration all relevant evidence.

A new 2017 law protects tenants from disclosure of an unlawful detainer action (eviction) against the tenant unless the landlord prevails. Now the record is not made public during 60 days after the unlawful detainer was filed unless the landlord prevails during that time. If the landlord does not prevail after 60 days the court record remains protected. The old law only protected the tenant if the tenant prevailed within the 60 days of filing. Landlords often continue the case beyond the first 60 days.

California continues to lead in laws governing use of electronic data. The new 2017 law expresses the intent of the Legislature to clarify that a digital signature may be used to satisfy the requirements of an electronic signature under the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act. If a public entity elects to use a digital signature, that meets specified requirements, the digital signature has the same force and effect of a manual signature in any communication with the public entity. A digital signature is defined as an electronic identifier, created by computer, intended by the party using it to have the same force and effect as the use of a manual signature. A digital signature is a type of “electronic signature” as defined in subdivision (h) of Section 1633.2 of the Civil Code.