Changes to the law mean updating your employee handbook and written policies

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This year, Governor Newsom signed several bills into law that affect California employers, many of which take effect on January 1, 2020. Though most of these laws do not explicitly instruct employers to update their handbooks, some may invalidate provisions that are contained in existing employee handbooks, written policies or other documents provided to employees, such as pay plans. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

Lactation accommodation:

The new lactation accommodation law set to take effect explicitly requires employers to develop, implement and distribute a written lactation accommodation policy by January 1, 2020. Employers who already have a written policy should make sure that the policy is reviewed and updated to comport with the new lactation accommodation requirements.

Government postings, notices and pamphlets:

Under certain circumstances, employers are required to provide employees with additional notices and pamphlets regarding their rights, beyond what employers are required to keep posted at all times. As new laws come into effect, the State of California will need to update its notices to employees and pamphlets to reflect these changes, such as the extension of the maximum duration of paid family leave benefits from six to eight weeks, which will become effective July 1, 2020. Since the law is always changing, and distribution materials are frequently updated, it is a good idea to print these materials directly from the government websites when they are needed (such as the Employment Development Department website), rather than copying and relying on older versions that are kept in the company files.

Minimum wage postings and other materials:

Minimum wages in the State of California and in several cities are set to increase effective January 1, 2020, as are the minimum wages for certain categories of employees. Other cities will see a minimum wage increase on July 1, 2020. Employers should be cognizant of the changes affecting their employees and update their required minimum wage postings, as well as any written policies or documents (such as pay plans) that identify the minimum wage as a specific dollar amount.

Organ donor policies:

If an employer maintains a written policy regarding leave time for organ donors, that written policy should be revised to reflect the new law’s requirements, specifically, that eligible employees are entitled to an additional 30 days of unpaid leave in addition to the 30 days of paid leave the law already required.

Grooming policies:

If employee handbooks contain a grooming or dress code policy that may be interpreted as targeting hairstyles typically associated with a particular race, employers will need to revise them prior to January 1, 2020.

On-call agreements:

In light of a recent case finding certain on-call shifts to be compensable time, employers should review any on-call agreements contained in their employee handbooks.

Arbitration agreements:

As of now, no injunction has been filed against a bill set to take effect on January 1, 2020 that prohibits mandatory arbitration agreements in employment. Thus, prior to the New Year, employers may need to revise arbitration agreements provided to employees.

It is highly recommended that employers obtain the assistance of legal counsel in evaluating and revising written policies, pay plans and agreements.