Quiet 2010 for California Employment Legislation Not Likely to Repeat in 2011

In 2010, former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed nine out of the eleven employment-related bills we were tracking that made it to his desk for approval. Among the vetoed legislation were bills: limiting the use of credit checks in employee background checks, requiring employers to provide unpaid bereavement leave, increasing damages in minimum wage actions, increasing penalties for failure to pay final wages actions, and removing overtime and meal period exemptions for certain agricultural employees.

With Jerry Brown as Governor, California employers should prepare for a resurgence of employee-friendly legislation on a level not seen since the 2003 legislative session--the last session before Governor Schwarzenegger defeated Governor Gray Davis in the recall election. It would not be surprising to see the Legislature revisit many of the bills vetoed over the last few years in the upcoming legislative session, including those of last year.

Two bills Governor Schwarzenegger did sign were effective January 1, 2011:

AB 569 (Emmerson) Meal & Rest Periods - This bill amends Labor Code Section 512 and exempts from meal and rest period provisions, employees in construction, commercial drivers, employees of local publicly owned electric utilities, and security officers, as defined, if such employees are covered by a valid Collective Bargaining Agreement (“CBA”). To qualify for the exemption, the CBA must provide for: wages, hours of work, and working conditions of employees, and meal periods for those employees, final and binding arbitration of disputes concerning application of its meal period provisions, premium wage rates for all overtime hours worked, and a regular hourly rate of pay of not less than 30 percent more than the state minimum wage rate.

SB 1304 (DeSaulnier) Marrow Donation Leave - This bill requires employers with 15 or more employees to permit employees to take paid leaves of absence for organ donation (up to 30 days) and bone marrow donation (up to five days), and to restore an employee returning from such leave to the same or equivalent position. The bill also prohibits an employer from interfering with, or retaliating against, an employee taking such leave, or opposing an unlawful employment practice related to such leave. The bill also creates a private right of action for aggrieved employees to seek enforcement of these provisions. Covered employers may require an employee take up to five days of earned but unused sick or vacation leave for bone marrow donation, and up to two weeks of earned but unused sick or vacation leave for organ donation as a condition of receiving such leave.

Please check back regularly for updates on California legislation as we track legislation in 2011.

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