A new California statute - California Labor Code § 925 - that became effective January 1, 2017, prohibits employers from requiring employees who live and work in California from litigating their employment claims elsewhere. Section 925 also prohibits attempts to limit the application of California law to employee claims.
Settlement agreements with departing employees - whether done in the context of a pending lawsuit or a severance package - quite often include the departing employee's promise never to seek to be re-hired. Given that neither side is - at the time - all that happy with the other, this would seem a pretty unremarkable arrangement. A California federal court decision, however, raises questions as to the ultimate enforceability of the promise.
The California state minimum wage increased as of January 1, 2017, with additional annual increases scheduled through January 1, 2023, when the minimum wage for all employees will reach $15.00/hour. California Labor Code § 1182.12; Minimum Wage Order 2017. Until then, employers with 25 or fewer employees are subject to a lower minimum wage requirement than those with more than 25 employees. For example, as of January 1, 2017, the minimum wage for employers with 25 or fewer employees is $10.00/hour, but is $10.50/hour for employers with more than 25 employees.
California's Fair Pay Act (California Labor Code § 1197.5) became effective on January 1, 2017. Briefly, the law prohibits pay differentials as between men and women, as well as among both races and ethnicities, for "substantially similar work." Exceptions are allowed in the context of seniority systems, merit systems, systems measuring the quantity or quality of production, or other "bona fide" factors other than sex, race and ethnicity. In the face of a lawsuit, however, the employer bears the burden of proving the existence of an appropriate exception.
Consistent with what many consider an employment 'best practice,' all manner of employers distribute employee handbooks and have their employees sign a separate, written acknowledgement that they received a copy of the handbook. Most of these handbooks contain clear statements that the employment is 'at-will.' In addition, many of these handbooks contain language requiring that all employment disputes be submitted to arbitration, rather than decided in a court with a jury. In late-2016, the practice of putting the important at-will language and the arbitration requirement in the same document became problematic.