A Look at Some Legal Surprises to Start Off 2012

This year brings some changes to the business environment. Here’s some of the more significant or controversial ones:

* If you already provide health insurance for your employees and you have more thanfive of them, then be prepared if one of them gets pregnant. Under SB299, the employer
must maintain insurance for female employees who take a pregnancy-related leave for aperiod of up to four months.

* For my faithful readers, you all know how I have urged you to avoid misclassifying workers as independent contractors rather than as employees.

Apparently, the problem has become so serious the state legislature has made willful misclassification of such individuals subject to some pretty intense fines. The penalties
are between $5000 and $25,000 and a referral to the State Contractors License Board for potential violations.

* This is a warning to all you employers who pay their employees by commission. Labor Code section 2751 requires that by January 2013 (next year, that is), all such employment
arrangements must be reduced to a writing explaining all aspects of how the commission payment system works. My advice — get it done now.

* California already has a reputation as a state that offers more employee protections than others. With AB 469, we step that up another notch.

Employers who don’t follow wage laws are subject to criminal penalties and can be made to pay make-up pay. The Labor Commissioner now has three years (rather than the
original one year) to go after miscreant employers.

So, that short-term hire who you didn’t pay properly, you now have to look over your shoulder for three years to see if there’s any action by the Labor Commissioner.
Also, you know those billboard-size notices you post in the employee break room that talks about minimum wage, workers compensation carriers and a variety of other
employment-related information? Now all employers have to provide new employees essentially the same information in document form (8 ½” x 11”) on their first day.

* Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ghost from 2010 returns and haunts major retailers with a bill he signed in 2010, SB 657.

As the Senate Judiciary Committee described it, “This bill would, among other things, beginning Jan. 1, 2011, require retail sellers and manufacturers doing business in the state
to develop, maintain, and implement policies related to their compliance with federal and state law regarding the eradication of slavery and human trafficking from their supply

It only applies to those companies doing more than $100 million in worldwide sales, so the local Hallmark shops are probably not covered. The retailers and manufacturers are
required to have this information on their websites.

I looked recently on Wal-Mart’s website and couldn’t find it. Let me know the results of your individual searches in this area.

* Finally, a bill that perhaps was aimed directly at the City Council.

The county of Los Angeles was furious that Santa Clarita now gets all of the money needed to run the library. If the city tried to take the same action in 2012, it would face a
host of new regulations. These include “publishing notice of the contemplated action in a specified manner, clearly demonstrating that the contract will result in actual overall cost
savings to the city or library district for the duration of the entire contract, as specified, prohibiting the contract from causing existing city or library district employees to incur a
loss of employment or specified benefits or an involuntary transfer, and imposing specified requirements on contracts for library services in excess of $100,000 annually.”

Might cause them to think twice about this decision.

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