California business owners: Have you taken a look through your employee handbook in a while? Thanks, in part, to the numerous recent updates to state and federal employment law, it is probably time.
The new year is an ideal time to update employment policies. Maintaining current employee handbooks ensures that employees are aware of their rights—and those of their employer—under the law. For example, California law (in certain circumstances) allows employees to take time off work without retaliation. Additionally, as we discussed in this post on employees and the election, employees are allowed time off to vote and to serve on a jury. Most employees are also allowed unpaid, job-protected leave if they are disabled by pregnancy or other medical challenges. The employee handbook is a standard and effective means of sharing relevant company information with employees, and your attorney can help you update your handbook so it complies with both California and federal law.
New changes in the form of AB 2337
One of the updates to include in your 2017 employment handbook relates to notice of leave for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. Indeed, a new law effective January 1, 2017 requires employers to notify employees of their rights under laws protecting victims of these crimes. Assembly Bill 2337 requires an employer to inform each employee of their right to take time off work without retaliation or repercussion to address their needs related to being a crime victim. These disclosures must be made at the time of hire for new employees, or upon request by current employees.
Existing law prohibits an employer from punishing, discriminating or retaliating against an employee who is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking if that employee takes time off work to address these crimes. Employees may need time off work to seek a temporary restraining order or injunctive relief to secure the health, safety, or welfare for him- or herself or a child; to seek medical attention, services from a domestic violence center or rape crisis center, obtain counseling, or participate in safety planning relocation arising out of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.
Again, AB 2337 requires an employer to provide notice of these rights upon hire or upon request. Generally, employers can comply with this requirement by including language in their employee handbooks about the right to take leave under the above circumstances. If your company handbook does not include such language, or you do not have an employee handbook, consult with your business attorney to revise your handbook so it is compliant, or to draft a memorandum that provides compliant notice. Going forward, the notice may be provided in a new hire’s offer letter. Another option to provide notice is to wait until the Labor Commissioner develops a template with key language, which is by July 1, 2017.
For more information on how to ensure that your company handbook meets all requirements set for in local, state and federal law, contact experienced business attorney Drew E. Pomerance today.