Legal expert discusses new workplace laws in California

LOS ANGELES -- A new year means new laws and those include ones that may affect you if you are looking for a new job, or even in your current workplace.

Brian Kabateck, chairman of the board at Loyola Law School, discussed the laws and what they're meant to do.

Q: So what is new for job applicants? There are a number of things prospective employers are not allowed to ask, correct?

A: "There's two important changes to the law this year that affect both employees and employers. The first is what we're calling 'ban the box,' which is that box you typically see on a job application that asks you if you've been convicted of a crime.

They can't ask you that anymore. They can only ask you that once you've been conditionally offered the job. So in other words, the employer says, 'I'm going to offer you a job, but I need some background information.' Then the employee has the right to contest it so if it comes back and there's a criminal hit, they can say, 'Well listen that was 25 years ago. It was a conviction for marijuana possession and that's no longer against the law,' or 'that's not me.'

So that's the important change. The first important change.

The second is they can't ask you your salary history anymore. Now you can volunteer it, if you want to ask your employer what you're going to be paid based on what you've been paid in the past, it's perfectly fine for them to do so...but they can't ask you what you were paid in the past."

Q: What about with immigration enforcement? What changes are we going to see this year and how are we going to marry all of that with federal law?

A: "What California has done is California has definitely said we are going to be ground zero for the resistance. So in California, they've passed a law now that as an employer you can't voluntarily let the federal government come into your work place to inspect your records, to go talk to your employees.

It mandates that an employer can no longer just simply let them come in, they've got to get a warrant, or a search warrant, or a subpoena or something like that. Then, the employer has to tell the employee within 72 hours their employment records are being subpoenaed by the federal government.

So it's a direct attempt to stop the Trump administration and trot out the federal government from taking some sort of action with respect to their employees."

Q: In this post-Weinstein era, what changes are being made when it comes to sexual harassment training?

A: "These laws are enacted by the Legislature in the summer. So before the Weinstein thing hit, before #MeToo came to be, the Legislature already saw that there was a problem here with sexual harassment.

If an employer has at least 50 employees, they have to have training in place for all supervisors on sexual harassment and it has to be repeated every two years if that person stays with them.

So what do I see coming in the future? A lot, because the Legislature is a political body and this is a hot political topic. You're going to see laws coming down that are going to make it easier for employees to bring sexual harassment lawsuits. You're also going to probably see laws that are going to say it is not proper to put sexual harassment cases into forced binding arbitration outside the view of the public.

Finally, you're probably going to see a ban on secret settlements of sexual harassment predators because potential predators, like Harvey Weinstein is alleged to be, are not going to be able to cover it up any longer with settlements and keeping it outside of the limelight."
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