Bradley & Gmelich LLP Letters

Money, Guns and Medicine

By Barry A. Bradley, Esq.

and

Thomas P. Gmelich, Esq.

California’s Governor Jerry Brown signed 807 New Laws for 2016.  Below are just a few highlights that might be of interest, whether you live here or not.

Equal Pay 

Senate Bill SB 358, known as the Fair Pay Act, seeks to close the gap between men and women’s wages by saying they must be paid the same for “substantially similar work.” This is an upgrade over the current standard, and allows women to talk about their own pay and inquire about the pay of others without facing discipline. While California already requires equal pay for equal work, women still consistently make less.

This new law, effective January 1, 2016, now allows female employees to allege pay discrimination based on the wages a company pays to other employees who do substantially similar work. Under the Fair Pay Act employers can justify higher wages for men only if the pay is based on seniority, a merit system, quantity or quality of production or any other “bona fide factor other than sex.”

Minimum Wage 

Assembly Bill AB 10, raises California’s minimum wage to $10 an hour from $9 a hour, well above the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour. Several legislative and ballot initiative proposals will push for a $15 an hour minimum wage as early as 2020.

Wage Theft 

In an effort to stop dishonest employers from withholding wages, SB 588 allows the California Labor Commissioner to slap a lien on the boss’s property to try and recoup the value of the unpaid wages.  It adds Labor Code Section 238:  If a judgment against an employer is unpaid within 30 days after the time to appeal has expired, “the employer shall not continue to conduct business in this state unless the employer has obtained a bond from a surety company admitted to do business in this state and has filed a copy of that bond with the Labor Commissioner.”

The Cost of the bond?  (Sit down for this one!):  $50,000 for judgments under $5,000, $100,000 for judgments $5,000 – $10,000, and $150,000 for judgments over $10,000!!

Also, any employer conducting business while in violation of this section will be assessed civil penalties of $2,500, plus $100 per day, up to a maximum of $100,000.  Clearly, the Labor Commissioner will not be taking wage theft lightly.

Deposition Notices

Litigators and insurance carriers beware:  Many insurers require their defense counsel to use a specific deposition court reporting company, and may even require that company be used for additional services, such as subpoenaing medical records.  This may result in what is perceived as unfair cost-shifting of litigation to the other parties (usually plaintiffs).  As of January 1, 2016, deposition notices must now disclose the existence of a contract, if any is known to the noticing party, between the noticing party or a third party who is financing all or part of the action and the court reporting service.

This new requirement is in conformity with similar laws in Kentucky and Indiana, following a call by the American Judges Association to limit the appearance of bias or partiality by a deposition hearing officer such as a court reporter.  AB 1197 allows an opposing counsel to suspend a deposition if they timely object and the notice is not in conformity with the new law.

Firearms Can Be Owned by Security Guard Companies:

Thanks to a CALSAGA–sponsored bill, starting on July 1, 2016, AB 2220 will allow licensed security guard companies to own weapons and distribute them to qualified, licensed and background-checked security officers for use while working an armed account.  Currently; security officers had to supply their own guns which limits the oversight of these firearms, or have them “loaned” for a period of up to 30 days, only to have to return the firearm.  The new law also requires all firearms to be registered with the Department of Justice, including the identity of the security officer to whom the gun is assigned.  This will allow for tracking of each firearm used by each security officer.

Firearm “Gun Violence Restraining Orders”

Under AB 1014, family members can ask a judge to remove firearms from a relative who appears to pose a threat. This legislation is in response to the deadly 2014 rampage near the University of California, Santa Barbara. Victims’ relatives said the parents of 22-year-old Elliot Rodger were blocked from seeking help for their troubled son before the rampage.  Law enforcement will now be able to seize an individual’s gun for 21 days in California if a judge determines that the person “poses an immediate and present danger of causing personal injury to himself, herself or another by having in his or her custody or control.”

Medi-Cal for Undocumented Children

California became the first state in the country to extend state-subsidized health coverage to children who are living in the United States illegally. An estimated 170,000 children under age 19 will become eligible for Medi-Cal, the state’s health insurance program for people who are low income, when the law goes into effect on May 1. (Legislators are expected to consider SB10, which would extend Medi-Cal to adults, in 2016 as well.)  The cost to taxpayers is estimated to be $40 million in the new fiscal year and grow to $132 million a year once fully implemented.  Opponents warned that it won’t help immigrants get access to doctors because of the shortage of providers who accept Medi-Cal.

Mandatory Child Vaccinations

In a hotly contested and controversial law, the California legislature determined that it is in the public’s interest to require vaccinations of all children in public and private school, thus passing SB 277.  There are no religious or individual exemptions.  (However, if there is a bona fide medical reason, that is the only exemption remaining.)  Parents who refuse to vaccinate their children will be forced to home school their children.  This is arguably one of the most far-reaching vaccination laws in the nation.  The new law is believed to affect tens of thousands of students and sets up a potential court battle with opponents of immunization.

California’s weakened public health defenses against measles and other preventable diseases led to the adoption of the measure, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, intended to stem the rising number of parents who opt not to inoculate their children.

Dumb and Dumber – Only in California. . .

And finally. . .

Thanks to SB 172 high school students will no longer have to actually pass high school to receive a diploma. Since 2004, students were required to take and pass a minimum proficiency exam in math and language.  But now, high school seniors will receive their diploma whether or not they pass or even take the High School Exit Exam.  Oh, and the law also applies retroactively to students who have graduated since 2004.  Duh! (Makes you wonder who’s dumber, the students or the California lawmakers?)