By Eric Heinz

As of Jan. 1, several new hot-button laws were approved by the California Legislature and are now in effect.

The laws include increases in minimum wage to $10.50 an hour for employers with 25 employees or less and $11 an hour for those with more than 25. Another bill will increase leave time for new parents to 12 weeks after the employee has worked for the business for more than one year. This applies to businesses with 20 or more employees.

Employers now cannot ask their employees about their criminal history on job applications. If a job offer is made, the employer can then check criminal records but not use them as a determinant of hiring someone. Employers also cannot use salary history to determine wages for an employee.

A highly contested bill passed last year regarding worksite immigration laws. AB 450 protects employees from immigration enforcement while working and employers cannot provide enforcement without a warrant. It also limits employers from providing agents with records without a subpoena or warrant.

A tangential bill to immigration status, AB 1701, places the onus on construction contractors for all unpaid wages, benefits or anything else agreed upon for subcontractors. The bill authorizes general contractors to request pay records from subcontractors in order to ensure the payments are made.

Laws that tackle sexual harassment in the workplace as well as mandatory training about avoiding such incidents are also now in effect. Employers with 50 or more employees must have a discussion of harassment under topics of harassment, gender identity and sexual orientation.

More information on the new laws can be found at www.calchamber.com. —Eric Heinz

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