Ahh, California – the Golden State, the inspiration of countless songs, books, films, and dreams; home to innovative business, social, and media trends. Included among the many who monitor these trends are legislators and lawyers, who especially keep an eye on our most populous state’s worker protection laws.
A trio of interesting workers’ rights laws have recently been approved and will take effect in California on January 1, 2022. Time will tell if these principles and basic protections of workers’ rights are adopted elsewhere.
- The “Silenced No More Act” prohibits employers from using non-disclosure and non-disparagement clauses in any type of employment agreement unless the agreement also allows employees to discuss information about unlawful acts in the workplace. The “unlawful acts” workers must be allowed to freely discuss now include harassment, retaliation, and discrimination generally. The previous law only prohibited contract clauses that barred the party from discussing claims based on sex.
These types of clauses can be included in employment agreements and also typically show up in termination and severance agreements. If you are ever asked to sign an agreement of this type, try to have it reviewed by an attorney – you can be sure it was prepared by an attorney for the employer. The professionals at Pelton Graham routinely review and negotiate employment, severance, and settlement agreements for clients and are keenly aware of the current employment regulations.
- The “Garment Worker Protection Act” makes California the first state to require an hourly minimum wage for garment workers by banning piece-rate pay. Piece-rate pay often violates the federal and state minimum wage laws and is responsible for wage theft, which affects millions of workers across virtually all industries.
The opening words of the legislative findings in the new law protecting garment workers say it all, “The garment industry in California is rife with violations of minimum wage law, overtime laws, and health and safety standards. California has the highest concentration of garment industry workers in the country.” The findings also state that the effective hourly rate due to various abuses is $5.15/hour, far below the California minimum wage.
In addition to the ban on piece-rate pay, an interesting feature of the law is that it puts the responsibility for compliance on clothing brands, and, in some cases, retailers themselves. The approach is similar to the recent New York construction industry wage theft law and may signal a trend towards limiting the opportunities for wage theft using corporate structures and subcontracts.
- A third new law protects warehouse workers by requiring that they simply be informed of their quotas and that quotas be structured to allow time for bathroom and meal breaks. Warehouse distribution centers must provide each employee a detailed description of the quotas and penalties for not making the quota. An employer cannot take action against an employee for failure to meet a quota that has not been disclosed. Nor can a quota be enforced if it does not allow a worker to take meal and rest periods, or causes non-compliance with occupational health and safety laws.
Pelton Graham monitors developments like these around the United States in order to anticipate and identify new issues and to be ready to act on behalf of our clients.
At Pelton Graham we get results – we don’t take every case, but if we take yours, we promise we’ll do our very best to get you the best possible result.
If you have any questions regarding your rights as an employee, applicant, independent contractor, or want to know anything related to the workplace, you can contact us for a no-obligation, no-cost consultation by telephone, video conference, or in-person at our nearest office.