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New California labor laws for 2019

The new year is almost upon us, and with it we will see some changes to California labor laws. 2018 has been a good year for low unemployment rates in California and across the country. Given the labor shortage, employers are under pressure to create better working conditions across many industries. Employers will have every incentive to follow the new laws in this atmosphere. The following are four changes that employees and employers alike should take note of:


Sexual harassment laws

Fewer places have attracted more attention regarding the #MeToo movement than California. Therefore, stronger sexual harassment and discrimination laws should surprise few people. Existing laws requiring training for employers who employ more than 50 people will now be extended to smaller employers of five or more employees.

Minimum wage raises

California’s minimum wage is going up on January 1 to $12 per hour for employees at establishments with more than 25 workers, and $11 per hour for establishments with 25 or fewer workers. Many places are already paying this rate or higher, however, due to the labor shortage. In addition, many Bay area cities have their own minimum wages that are higher than the state hourly rate in 2019, including:

  • Berkley: already at $15, will rise according to the consumer price index (CPI)
  • Oakland: at $13.23, will rise according to CPI
  • Palo Alto: $15
  • San Francisco: already at $15, will rise according to CPI
  • San Jose: $15

Gender representation on boards

By the end of 2019, boards of directors for publicly held corporations must have at least one female director. That number may climb to three for some larger companies over the next two years. The purpose of the law is to increase gender equity at all levels of employment.

Overtime for agricultural workers

California has a large contingency of agricultural workers, who currently have fewer overtime protections than other industries. New laws will improve that situation slightly over time. Agricultural employers with more than 25 employees will have to pay overtime to employees working over 9.5 hours per day or 55 hours per week, lowered from 10 hours per day or 60 hours per week. Smaller employers phase in the changes beginning in 2022.

The new year should bring some encouraging changes in employment laws. Although employers have a strong incentive to comply, time will tell what sort of impact these new laws will have.