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Minimum wage hike, new housing laws, others take effect.

Tim Hearden, Western Farm Press

January 3, 2019

2 Min Read
California capitol
New laws took effect in California on Jan. 1.

Each year around New Year’s Day, as hundreds of new state laws hit the books in California, I’m reminded of complaints that former Northern California state Sen. Maurice Johannessen used to make about the “silly season” in the Legislature.

The "silly season" is that time of year when deadlines loom and everyone wants to tack their favorite pet issue or project onto a budget trailer bill or other legislation, hence the proliferation of what Johannessen used to call “silly bills.”

MoJo, as we used to call him, was a moderate Republican who wasn’t afraid to cross party lines, to the point that Democratic Gov. Gray Davis appointed him as secretary of veterans affairs after he left the Senate. (He’s also the reason I always have to double-check the spelling when I write about California Farm Bureau Federation president Jamie Johansson.)

But I wonder how even MoJo would manage in today’s political climate in California.

There’s certainly no shortage of “silly bills” that are now laws as of Jan. 1, including one to make you have to ask for a plastic straw in a restaurant. My favorite, in a perverse sense, is one that the Los Angeles Times describes as requiring state education officials to “help develop media literacy programs to teach students how to spot fake news.” I’m certain they won’t be looking for fake news in the Times, or any other “approved” source.

But whether you think they’re silly or not, there are some laws that agricultural employers will need to make note of. The California Strawberry Commission provides a helpful list on its website. Among the laws the panel cites:

Labor laws. Additional steps in the phasing in of minimum wage and agricultural overtime laws took effect on Jan. 1. Employers with 26 or more employees now must pay at least $12 an hour, while smaller businesses need to pay at least $11 an hour. Also, for companies with 26 or more employees, overtime now accrues after 55 hours of work.

Housing. Employers will be prohibited, with certain exceptions, from requiring a worker to sign a release of claims under the Fair Employment and Housing Act in exchange for a raise or bonus, or to get or keep a job. The company also must not require an employee to sign a non-disclosure agreement to conceal unlawful acts in the workplace.

Sexual harassment. The #MeToo movement spurred a wave of these bills, including one to expand required training for employees and another barring companies from concealing instances or legal settlements for sexual harassment through non-disclosure agreements.

Expedited ALRB schedule. In most cases, the Agricultural Labor Relations Board now has one year to finalize decisions regarding make-whole awards, back pay and other monetary awards to employees.

Women on boards. Publicly traded companies headquartered in California must have at least one female board member by the end of 2019. More specific requirements take effect by the end of 2021.

For the commission’s complete advisory, visit https://bit.ly/2LCY0Lq.


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