Workplace gender gap addressed in 2018


New state laws that increase the minimum wage and reduce the pay disparity between male and female employees are coming to the workplace next year.

Among the new requirements for 2018: Companies with 26 or more employees must start paying workers $11 per hour. Smaller employers must raise the hourly rate to $10.50 per hour. The state minimum wage is scheduled to increase every year on Jan. 1 until it reaches $15 in 2022.

The hike in the minimum wage is one of several changes that employers must put into place starting in January. When hiring, companies can no longer ask a job candidate about their salary history, an employment practice that has suppressed female earning power for generations, the bill’s author said.

“(Assembly Bill) 168 empowers women to determine for themselves where they start negotiating,” Assemblymember Susan Eggman (D-Stockton) said following the bill’s passage on Sept. 14.

The National Partnership for Women and Families estimates the pay disparity in California costs every full-time working woman $8,000 per year.

The new labor law will see tables turned at the job interview because it requires employers, for the first time, to reveal the salary range for a position if an applicant asks. The employer may consider a person’s past salary only if an applicant “voluntarily and without prompting” provides the information,” the law says.

Local legislators—Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks) and state Sens. Henry Stern (D-Calabasas) and Hannah- Beth Jackson (D-Oxnard)—voted for the bill.

Criminal history: Similar to the issue of salary, employers in 2018 can no longer ask job applicants if they’ve been convicted of a crime. Employers with five or fewer employees are exempt. An employer can, however, withdraw an offer of employment to a candidate if a conviction or criminal history shows up on a background check. The ban doesn’t apply to criminal-justice positions and government jobs that require a security clearance.

Salon pay: Senate Bill 490 allows salon owners to pay stylists by commission rather than per appointment. But, the commission must be double the state’s minimum-wage rate. The intent of the new law is to guarantee that stylists are paid fairly for their services, and clarifies a wage issue that has long confused salon owners.

Unpaid parental leave: The state’s New Parent Leave Act expands family-rights law to allow employees who work for an employer with 20 employees to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave when a child is born. The existing law applies only to companies with 50 or more employees. This change is expected to affect 2.7 million working Californians, and applies both to private and public employers. Parents of newborns— and adopted and foster children—are eligible for unpaid leave to bond with a child. Parents who work for the same employer can be asked to share the 12-week leave. Workers may use vacation, sick days or paid personal time off as compensation during their new state-mandated family leave period.

Whistleblower protection: SB 306 expands the state labor commissioner’s power to investigate claims of retaliation by employers against whistleblowers who report alleged workplace violations. Current law authorizes the labor commission to probe possible retaliation only when an employee files a complaint. Starting Jan. 1, state officials may investigate without a complaint being filed. California law makes it illegal to terminate or discipline an employee for contacting a government or law enforcement agency about suspected illegal practices. Employers who insist on retaliating face fines of up to $10,000.

Coverage requirements for worker’ comp: More part-owners of professional corporations can save on workers’ compensation coverage by opting out of the company’s policy. Legislators modified an existing exclusion for part-owners and members of a corporation’s board of directors. Current law allows partners with at least 15 percent ownership to opt out of the workplace accident policy. Starting July 1, part-owners with only a 10 percent stake in an incorporated business may waive their workers’ comp coverage as long as they have other health insurance to cover them in case of accident or illness.

The California Medical Association backed the new, broader exception, saying 15 percent ownership was arbitrary, and excluded medical practices with eight or more equal partners. Some medical corporations that didn’t qualify for the exemption paid between $11,000 and $18,000 more for workers’comp insurance coverage this year, according to CMA.

Higher DMV fees to pay for roads: The DMV will begin collecting more vehicle-registration fees in 2018, a move approved by lawmakers to help pay for California road repairs. The Transportation Improvement Fee is based on a vehicle’s current value, and it could add up to $175 to a vehicle’s annual vehicle registration cost, the DMV says. Vehicles worth up to $25,000 will incur a $50 TIF. One valued between $25,000 and $34,999 will be subject to a $100 fee, and those $60,000 and over will be hit with a $175 tax.