California employment laws to look for in 2018
California employment laws to look for in 2018
12 DECEMBER 2017 8:24 AM

From minimum-wage adjustments to immigration rights, here’s a look at some of the new employment laws in California for 2018.

Year after year, California is among the most visited places in the world. The Golden State is a mecca for tourism and a hospitality hub, with travel spending exceeding $122 billion in the 2016 calendar year—reason enough to track changes in employment law that will impact hoteliers doing business there.

Indeed, there are several new workplace requirements and restrictions that become effective in California on 1 January 2018. For hotel and resort owners and operators that double as California employers, here is a brief overview.

Minimum wage
The minimum wage paid by California employers with 25 employees or less increases to $10.50 per hour. Employers in California with 26 employees or more must pay a minimum hourly rate of $11. It should be noted that the minimum wage paid to hotel workers in Los Angeles—currently $15.66—is to be adjusted upward effective 1 July 2018, in an amount that is yet to be determined.

Salary for exempt employees
The minimum salary to be deemed an exempt employee in California moves to $45,760, assuming the employer has 26 employees or more. For California businesses with 25 employees or less, the minimum salary to be deemed an exempt employee bumps up to $43,680 for another year.

Salary inquiry ban
All California employers, public and private, are prohibited from inquiring—directly or through an agent (e.g., recruiters and executive search firms)—about the compensation and benefits history of job applicants. Likewise, such salary information cannot be relied upon by employers in determining whether to extend job offers to applicants or the amount applicants should be paid. However, employers may consider salary history if voluntarily disclosed without prompting. In addition, employers will be required to provide pay scale information to applicants when requested.

Immigration rights
Employers in California may not voluntarily consent to workplace access by Immigration and Customs Enforcement without a judicial warrant, and they must provide workers with notice of certain immigration enforcement actions. The law also imposes new statutory penalties for violations.

Paid family leave
The weekly benefits extended to California employees on paid family leave will increase depending upon income levels. Employees will now receive up to 70% of their usual salaries, with a specified maximum weekly benefit. Also, the current seven-day waiting period for assistance will be eliminated so that these increased benefits become payable immediately.

Ban the box law
Unless a limited exception applies, employers in California with five employees or more may not ask applicants about their criminal histories prior to a conditional offer of employment. If an employer elects not to employ an applicant because of a criminal conviction, written notification to that effect must be provided to the applicant.

New parental leave act
Parental leave rights (concerning a child’s birth, adoption or foster care placement) are being expanded to apply to California employers with 20 to 49 employees. The rights conferred by this law are the same as under the Family and Medical Leave Act and the California Family Rights Act, and apply to employees with more than 12 months or 1,250 hours of service with their employer during the prior 12-month span.

Unlawful retaliation
Employers in California may be required to allow employees to remain in their jobs during the pendency of retaliation and whistleblower claims. The law also eases an employee’s burden of proof for injunctive relief in such cases.

Sexual harassment training
Employers in California with 50 employees or more must provide at least two hours of sexual harassment training, which is to also cover harassment based on gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation.

Paid sick leave in Santa Monica
Eligible employees working for Santa Monica employers with 25 employees or less are entitled to five days or 40 hours of paid sick leave per year, while those working for employers in Santa Monica with 26 employees or more may collect nine days or 72 hours of annual paid sick leave.

Employer takeaway
In light of these new laws on the books, hoteliers in California would be wise to take steps toward preparedness. Among other things, they should:

  • conduct financial planning and budgeting, particularly in light of adjusted minimum-wage requirements;
  • update training requirements to cover sexual harassment, including that based on gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation;
  • review application and hiring procedures to ensure compliance with the salary history prohibition and “Ban the Box” laws;
  • review and revise parental leave policies;
  • review policies and procedures to ensure compliance with immigration rights law;
  • update employee handbooks as needed;
  • as necessary, inform the workforce of the foregoing changes in the law; and
  • seek advice and counsel from your labor and employment attorney should questions about these new requirements and restrictions arise.

Lara Shortz is a partner at Michelman & Robinson, LLP (M&R), a national law firm with offices in Los Angeles, Orange County (California), San Francisco, Chicago and New York. She represents clients in the hospitality and restaurant, food and beverage industries. More specifically, she advises management regarding employment and labor law issues, including state and federal employment acts (such as EEOC, FEHA, ADA, ADEA, WARN, etc.), hiring, firing and wage and hour compliance. She also handles executive employment contract disputes and conducts workplace training, investigations and compliance. Contact her at 310-564-2670 or

Diyari Vazquez is counsel at Michelman & Robinson. She represents clients in the hospitality industry, and advises them in matters related to labor and employment law, including discrimination, harassment, wrongful termination, reduction in workforce, hiring, wage and hour issues and more. Contact her at 310-564-2670 or

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