New California laws address budget, workplace discrimination

Beginning next year, California will have new workplace laws in effect. Some of the laws cover such areas as workplace discrimination and the rights of workers, but the focus for the New Year was mostly on the budget. Approximately 18 laws are scheduled to affect both employees and their employers.

One of the new laws governing the rights of workers covers social media. Employers may no longer ask or force their employees or any job applicants to give their user names and passwords for personal social media pages, with certain exceptions. Another law allows employees to receive copies of their personnel records no later than 30 days after they are requested. The current law allows employees access, but they can only receive copies of documents they may have signed. Previously, companies were under no deadline to give the employees requested copies of their records.

Religious dress and grooming practices are also addressed. The state's new workplace discrimination law requires companies to "reasonably accommodate" an employee's request. This means they would have to evaluate the request using the same framework an employer must use to accommodate someone who has a physical disability. Breastfeeding has also been covered, with the new law stating that employers who discriminate against a woman who breastfeeds, or even who might breastfeed, could be under fire for gender or sex discrimination.

Workplace discrimination can happen to any employee in California. The new laws in place will hopefully further curb discrimination so employees can work in a fair and hospitable environment. Any employee who feels they are being discriminated against now or who has questions about how the new laws might affect them would do well to consult with an experienced employment attorney.

Source: SFGate.com, "A look at new California workplace laws," Kathleen Pender, Oct. 31, 2012

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