LAW REVIEW: Labor benefits from new state laws |

LAW REVIEW: Labor benefits from new state laws

With the Democrats solidly in control in Sacramento, it’s payback time. Labor benefitted from many new laws effective January 1, 2001.


Employers may not receive any part of a gratuity belonging to any employee, without regard to the employee’s base wage rate, and all gratuities paid by credit card must be paid to the employee by the following regular payday.

Bounced Checks

Employers may be penalized for a maximum of 30 days’ wages and benefits for dishonored wage checks, unless the employee can show that the violation was unintentional.

Pay Statements

Employers must record the hourly rate and hours worked for hourly workers in itemized pay statements listing gross wages, hours and deductions but need not do so for salaried employees who are exempt from overtime pay requirements. Employees who file suit to recover underpayments of minimum wages or specified overtime wages may recover their attorneys’ fees, while employers, even if they prevail, may not. That’s fair.

Minimum Wage

California’s minimum wage increases from its current level of $5.75 per hour to $6.25 per hour effective January 1, 2001 and $6.75 per hour effective January 1, 2002.


California’s version of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act has been substantially broadened. Virtually any mildly disabling condition is sufficient to constitute a “disability” protected under the new law. Anything shy of a hangnail.

Workplace Harassment

Even non-supervisory co-employees who commit workplace harassment in violation of the Fair Employment Housing Act are now personally liable to the harassed employee – marking a change in California law. Employers are liable only if they knew or should have known of the harassment and failed to take corrective action. Harassment can be on the basis of race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, mental condition, marital status, sex, age or sexual orientation.

Domestic Violence

Domestic-violence victims have the right to take leaves of absence to seek medical attention, recover from injuries, obtain services from a domestic-violence program and/or counseling or participate in safety planning, and may take off work to go to court in connection with domestic-violence cases. Reasonable advance notice is required.

Personnel Files

Every employee has the right to inspect his or her personnel records at reasonable times and intervals. Public employers are now subject to the same inspection laws. Records of investigations of possible criminal offenses and letters of reference are excepted. Additional requirements apply to employees of public schools per the Education Code.

Genetic Characteristics

Genetic characteristics placed in applicant’s medical records may not be improperly disclosed. “Genetic characteristics” means any inherited characteristic that causes or increases the risk of a disease or disorder that is “presently not associated with any symptoms of a disease or disorder.”

Proposition 36

California’s liberal electorate approved Proposition 36, which provides that first and second-time offenders convicted of “non-violent” drug possession crimes be sentenced to probation and drug treatment rather than jail. Employers may not refuse to hire a person who successfully completes an approved drug treatment program on that basis.

Medical Leave

A bill that would have allowed medical leave to care for a grandparent, sibling, or domestic partner who has a serious health condition was vetoed by Governor Davis.

Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter/Simon, with offices in Truckee and Reno. He may be reached at porter@ or at the firm’s web site

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