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California’s 2015 Employment Law Changes - Washington employers may see efforts to pass similar laws in this State.

    December 16, 2015

    The state of California often enacts employment law legislation that later expands to neighboring states and nationwide.   In 2015, the California Legislature passed the following laws, each signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown.  Time will tell if Washington or other states enact similar law.

    Paid sick leave.  California now requires most employers to provided paid sick leave.  Tacoma and Seattle currently have ordinances that require some Washington employers to provide this same benefit.  

    Equal pay.  California made changes to its equal pay statute.  California has reduced the employee’s burden of proof to state a claim, and increase the burden on employers.  Californian employees may now ask other employees about the amount of their wages to ascertain whether there may be a factual basis for an equal pay claim.  

    Enhanced retaliation protection.  California has extended employment retaliation protections.  The law now protects an employee who is a family member of a person who engaged in, or is perceived to have engaged in, legally protected conduct

    Government assistance in collecting on wage judgments.  California law now permits the State’s Labor Commissioner to file a lien on real estate, or a levy on an employer’s property, or impose a stop order on an employer’s business in order to assist an employee in collecting unpaid wages where there is a judgment against the employer. A bond of up to $150,000 may be required of an employer who does not promptly pay a judgment for unpaid wages. California’s Labor Commissioner now has the authority to issue a citation to enforce local minimum wage and overtime laws, including against an employer or person acting on behalf of an employer for violations of existing law related to reimbursements for expenses.  

    Expanded time off work.  California law has expended the authorized reasons for which an employee can take job-protected time off of work without the fear of discrimination or discharge by allowing workers to take time off work.  These reasons now include to find, enroll, or re-enroll his or her child in a school or with a licensed child care provider, and to address a child care provider or school emergency. 

    Cheerleading.  California professional sports enterprises that include the use of professional cheerleaders must treat them as employees, not independent contractors.

    Governor Brown, however, did not sign into law each employment law related bill the Legislature presented.  The Governor vetoed the following bills

    Governor Brown rejected a bill that would have barred  the use by employers of pre-dispute binding arbitration agreements for most employment disputes. 

    The Governor also vetoed a proposed prohibition on employers directly or indirectly asking job applicants for their salary history, including compensation and benefits.

    Currently, there is some pending Washington legislation similar to laws passed or vetoed in California in 2015.  For instance, there are efforts in Washington to prohibit pre-dispute arbitration, expand retaliation protections, and require paid leave.  2016 could be another interesting year in this State, as the Washington Legislator reviews California’s new laws and this State’s legislators continue to debate changes to Washington’s employment law.

    Brian A. Walker helps businesses and individuals in employment, business, and real estate related litigation and transactions from the Wenatchee office of Ogden Murphy Wallace PLLC. You can reach Brian at or at (509) 663-1954.