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January 7, 2015


There is a trend growing among California cities and counties whereby local governments are enacting laws addressing employee rights.  This has resulted in local ordinances addressing sick leave, minimum wage, employer inquiries into prospective employees’ criminal background (a movement known as “Ban-the-Box”), and scheduling of employee’s work time.  Below is a discussion highlighting significant local employment laws in California.

Sick Leave
On November 4, 2014, voters in Oakland passed a measure requiring employers to provide paid sick leave.  Oakland’s law expands beyond the State’s sick leave law.  Effective March 2, 2015, employers that employ less than 10 workers in the City of Oakland will be required to provide 40 hours of paid sick leave, while larger employers will be required to provide 72 hours of paid sick leave.  As with the State law, employees may use the paid sick time for illness, to care for family members who are sick, or to attend doctors’ appointments for themselves or family members.  Oakland’s law, however, also allows employees to designate non-family members for whom they can use their paid sick time if they have no spouse or domestic partner.   

In July 2014, San Diego passed laws regarding paid sick time and minimum wage increases, which would have been effective in 2015.  However, on October 20, 2014, the San Diego City Council voted unanimously to put the new sick leave and minimum wage laws on hold and instead allow voters to determine whether or not to adopt the proposed laws by putting them on in the June 2016 primary ballot.  As a result, the new legislation will not become law unless and until the voters of San Diego elect to do so.  

Minimum Wage
The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, while the current California minimum wage is $9.00 per hour with a scheduled increase to $10.00 on January 1, 2016.  Recently, local entities have decided to introduce their own minimum wage laws, allowing them to ostensibly: (1) match pay rates with costs of living; (2) attempt to address perceived problems when State and federal governments fail to act; and (3) to test the feasibility of higher minimum wages.  

San Francisco was one of the first major cities in California to pass local minimum wage ordinances, doing so in 2003.  As a result of that law, San Francisco’s minimum wage is currently $11.05. 

Recently, a few other cities have followed San Francisco’s lead.  On Page 2, is a table showing the recently approved local minimum wage and increases scheduled in the near future.  

Ban-the-Box Legislation
The term “Ban-the-Box” comes from a political movement seeking to literally and figuratively remove the box on employment forms asking prospective employees about their criminal past.  Ban-the-Box proponents assert that an employer’s unwillingness to give a person with a criminal history a chance at a job decreases the likelihood that person will get the job and increases likelihood the person will remain in the criminal justice system.  A few cities in California have taken note and enacted Ban-the-Box legislation.

In 2005, San Francisco enacted Ban-the-Box legislation as it applied to City and County employees.  In 2014, San Francisco expanded the law to all private employers.  As a result, employers in San Francisco can only conduct background checks after the first live interview.  

On April 5, 2011, Compton enacted laws applying to employers with city contracts.  The laws require employers to conduct their background check only after a conditional offer of employment has been made and prohibits consideration of any convictions not related to the job position they are applying for.  

On November 22, 2011, Richmond enacted Ban-the-Box legislation limiting employers with city contracts and their subcontractors to use of background checks to only those prospective employees who are otherwise qualified candidates and only for certain positions.  

Retail Workers Bill of Rights
On November 25, 2014, San Francisco passed the Retail Workers Bill of Rights.  Under the new law, chain stores with 20 or more locations (for example, Target, Costco, McDonald’s, etc.) must: (1) offer additional hours of work to existing part-time employees before hiring additional part-time employees or using a staffing agency; (2) post employee work schedules at least two weeks in advance and pay employees one hour at regular rate of pay for schedule changes made with less than a week’s notice, or two to four hours of regular pay for changes made with less than 24 hours’ notice; (3) pay employees two to four hours of regular pay for employees required to be “on-call” for specific shift which was cancelled within 24 hours; and (4) keep employees on job for at least 90 days after a sale of the company.  The controversial new law purports to promote full time work, encourage fair and predictable schedules, discourage abusive on-call scheduling practices, and encourage worker retention and job security.  

When reviewing policies and procedures related to employment, employers must now be aware of local ordinances that may also come into play.  While it is unclear as to the extent these laws will be enforced against employers, this trend is only likely to increase in 2015.  Therefore, employers must be ever vigilant in staying on top of developments in localities where they employ employees.

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