Governor Signs Bills Protecting Workers
This week, Governor Brown has taken steps to protect low-wage workers by signing several important bills. These protections include health care coverage for pregnant women and new mothers on leave, prohibition of the use of a costly and ineffective worker verification system, recovery for the costs of court interpreters for indigent persons, a ban on the use of consumer credit reports in hiring decisions, and increased penalties for employers who misclassify workers as independent contractors.
The LAS–ELC strongly supported these bills.
SB 299—Health Care Coverage Protection for Pregnant Women and New Mothers
This law requires employers to continue to provide health coverage for women who take pregnancy leave. Faced with paying out-of-pocket costs for medical care during pregnancy leave, many women delayed or shortened their leave rather than lose medical benefits. Because of this law, women will no longer have to choose between pregnancy leave and health coverage.
This coverage is essential to the health and economic security of women. Three quarters of women entering today’s workforce will become pregnant at least once while employed, and they will generally remain in the workforce following childbirth. The Legal Aid Society–Employment Law Center strongly advocated for passage of this bill.
AB 1236—Prohibition on the Mandated Use of E-Verify System by Private Employers in California
Private employers in California can no longer be compelled by state or local government to use the E-verify system to determine work eligibility of their employees. While the E-Verify Program claims to confirm that employees are authorized to work in the United States, it is an extremely costly system and it can lead to unlawful discrimination on the basis of national origin. In Arizona, for example, where there is a requirement that employers use the E-Verify system, the Arizona Republic newspaper has reported that employers simply shift employees whose status is unclear off the tax rolls. This not only defeats the system’s purpose, but costs the state income tax revenue. Furthermore the Government Accountability Office found that the Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration databases—which E-Verify uses to check the status of employees—remain deeply flawed. Each year thousands of workers wrongfully receive information that they are not qualified to work in the U.S.
AB 1403—Recovery for Costs of Court Interpreters for Indigent Persons
With the signing of AB 1403, court interpreter fees on behalf of an indigent person are now included in costs that are recoverable by prevailing parties who are represented by a qualified legal services project, such as The Legal Aid Society–Employment Law Center. Qualified court interpretation for those with limited English proficiency is crucial to the fair and full litigation of cases.
AB 22—Prohibiting Job Applicant Credit Checks
AB 22 generally prohibits employers from obtaining consumer credit reports of job applicants for employment purposes. With the signing of this bill, California joins Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Oregon, and Washington as states that limit the use of credit checks in the hiring process. Pre-hire credit checks can disproportionately impact low-income workers, whose scores may be reduced due to layoffs, foreclosures, mounting college debt or other financial hardships. The law provides certain exceptions to the ban on the use of applicant credit checks, including jobs with the Department of Justice, law enforcement, or jobs that involve access to large amounts of money.
SB 459—Increased Penalties for Willful Misclassification of Employees as Independent Contractors
This law protects the rights of employees who are improperly misclassified as independent contractors by employers seeking to avoid the existing legal protections that employee status provides to workers, including wage standards and workers compensation. The new law increases penalties for willful misclassification of employees as independent contractors, and increases protections for workers by providing additional deterrents to employers who violate the law.