We are five months into the year and many of us are still learning what the new laws are or how they apply to us. A lot of California’s new legislative efforts are meant to address the issues that came up during the past couple of years, and some are bound to make us angry all over again. Here are some of the new laws that took effect in January and have been in our lives since.
The Hiring Process
A prospective employer will no longer be able to decide how much money to offer you by asking what you made at your last job. Under Assembly Bill 168, the salary history of job applicants can only be disclosed voluntarily. Supporters say the law could help women close the gender pay gap. Also, Assembly Bill 1008 aims to improve employment prospects for formerly incarcerated job seekers. Employers will still be able to conduct a background check once a conditional offer has been made, but the law, which is part of a national ban-the-box movement, is meant to give former convicts a better opportunity to be considered on their merits before they are judged for past mistakes.
Senate Bill 450, which passed in 2016, does away with neighborhood polling places and replaces them with elections conducted primarily by mail. It represents another effort to boost declining voter participation. As usual every registered voter will receive a mail ballot. Drop-off locations will be available up to four weeks before election day and temporary regional “vote centers” will open 10 days ahead of time to register voters and accept ballots.
Californians who work for smaller companies or employers, now have expanded protections to take time off from work. Under Senate Bill 63, nearly 2.8 million workers at small businesses with between 20 and 49 employees are now guaranteed up to 12 weeks of unpaid parental leave within the first year of their child’s birth, adoption or foster care placement. Assembly Bill 908 also boosts state compensation for workers taking paid leave to temporarily care for a family member, to 60 percent of their regular wages from 55 percent, and up to 70 percent for the lowest earners.
The SB 219 bill prohibits the facilities from discriminating based on a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or HIV status. The bill would also provide certain protections to all residents of long-term care facilities during, among other things, physical examinations or treatments, relating to bodily privacy. The bill would define long-term care facility for purposes of these provisions to include skilled nursing facilities, intermediate care facilities, and residential care facilities for the elderly. State Senator Scott Wiener said he wrote the bill because LGBT seniors have unique challenges that are were not addressed under the previous nursing care home laws. There were many reports of mistreatment, that many LGBT seniors living in long-term care facilities were experiencing discrimination based on their sexual orientation, identity or gender expression.
Crossing the Street
If the “jay-walking” laws weren’t clear enough to both pedestrians and drivers before, they are likely to stay that way. You are now permitted to do something you were probably doing anyway: cross the street when the red hand signal is flashing. Assembly Bill 390 eliminates the penalty for entering a crosswalk after a “Don’t Walk” symbol appears, as long as there is a countdown that indicates how much time is left for pedestrians to cross.
Addressing California’s severe housing affordability crisis, state legislators crafted more than a dozen new laws last session that aim to spur development. Some have broader implications for all residents, including Senate Bill 2, which adds a fee of $75 to $225 on real estate transactions. It is expected to generate up to $300 million annually for affordable housing projects, programs that assist homeless people and long-range development planning. If a community has not met its state-mandated housing needs, Senate Bill 35 allows developers to bypass the lengthy, and often expensive, review process for new projects. Assembly Bill 167 seeks to turn down the “not in my backyard” backlash by making it harder for cities and counties to vote down proposed developments that fit within their long-range housing plans.
For people working in the food-service industry Senate Bill 3 covers the majority here for a pay increase. In January the state’s minimum wage increased by 50 cents to $11 per hour for workers at companies with at least 26 employees, and to $10.50 for those at smaller businesses. Senate Bill 3, will continue to hike the hourly wage annually until it reaches $15 in 2022 for larger companies and in 2023, for all workers.
The Gender Recognition Act
For purposes of obtaining a new birth certificate under the provisions above, the SB 179 bill would delete the requirement that an applicant have undergone any treatment, and instead would authorize a person to submit to the State Registrar an application to change gender on the birth certificate and an affidavit attesting, under penalty of perjury, that the request for a change of gender is to conform the person’s legal gender to the person’s gender identity and not for any fraudulent purpose. This bill will be commencing on September 1, 2018. It also adds a “non-binary” option for those who do not identify as either male or female, which will be available on driver’s licenses as well starting in 2019.
A more “traditional” and perhaps favorable way of exiting high school returned to California earlier this year when Jerry Brown signed a bill eliminating the California High School Exit Exam. Assembly Bill 830 eliminates the high school exit exam, which was instituted, beginning with the Class of 2006, to ensure that students demonstrated a minimum proficiency in English and math before graduating. Critics said the exit exam disadvantaged non-native English speakers, charter school students and disabled students. Only 67 percent of disabled students passed the exam in 2014.
In California a new law took effect in January that requires a prescription for all medically important antibiotics used to treat health problems in cattle, sheep and other livestock. The law defines livestock as “all animals and poultry, including aquatic and amphibian species that are raised, kept, or used for profit.” The new law does not apply to bees or dogs, cats and pet birds.
Here at McElfish we provide legal counsel for many civil rights issues particularly pertaining to the LGBT community. We are also experts in personal injury, business law and employment law matters. If you think you may need to speak to one of our attorney’s please give us a call today.