As previously reported here, new laws signed by the Governor will become effective beginning January 1, 2012, and employers should be aware of these new legal requirements including the following:

Assembly Bill 1136: IIPP Update for Health Care Facility Employers (Effective Jan. 1, 2012):  AB 1136 [pdf] requires a health care facility employer to update its injury and illness prevention programs to adopt and include safe patient handling policies meaning that the IIPP should include patient protection and health care worker back and musculoskeletal injury prevention plans.

Assembly Bill 22:  Limitations on Employee Screening in Employment (Effective Jan. 1, 2012):  Previously, California law generally allowed employers to request credit reports for employment purposes so long as written notice was presented to the applicant or employee for whom the report was sought.  AB 22 [pdf] now prohibits employers and prospective employers from using consumer credit reports to screen applicants or to make other personnel decisions.

Eight positions are exempted from this requirement including certain financial institutions, managerial positions (those which qualify for the executive employee overtime exemption), law enforcement positions, positions that involve sensitive information or access to $10,000 or more of cash including where the employee would be a named signatory on the employer’s bank or credit card account or otherwise be an agent in financial transactions, and positions for which credit information is otherwise required by law to be disclosed or obtained. If an exception applies, the employer must provide the employee or applicant with written notice specifying the basis for requesting the report, informing the person of the source of the report, and providing a box to check to request a free copy of the report.

Senate Bill 757: Discrimination in Health Insurance for Domestic Partners (Effective Jan. 1, 2012):  Under the California Insurance Equality Act, insurance companies must provide the same coverage for registered domestic partners as for spouses. SB 757 [pdf] closes a gap in that law as, for the past several years, out-of-state policies issued to employers who maintain their principal place of business and the majority of employees outside the state did not provide the same benefits to registered domestic partners.  Now, every group health insurance policy provided to a California resident, regardless of where the contract is entered into, must offer equal coverage for spouses and registered domestic partners.

Assembly Bill 1236:  Limits on Employer Use of E-Verify (Effective Jan. 1, 2012)Under AB 1236 [pdf], the “Employment Acceleration Act of 2011”, California employers cannot be required by a state, city, county, or special district, to use a federal electronic employment verification system (specifically E-Verify) to verify their employees are authorized to work in the United States in order to receive a government contract or obtain a business license, or as a penalty for violating licensing laws.  There are certain exceptions, for instance when the employer is required by federal law to use E-Verify or as a condition of receiving federal funds.  The stated purpose of the law is to save employers costs and expenses.

Assembly Bill 1401: Minors in the Entertainment Industry (Effective immediately):   Currently, the labor commissioner must furnish his or her written consent in order for a minor under the age of 16 to participate in certain projects.  AB 1401 [pdf] establishes a temporary work permit program for minors in the entertainment industry, to be administered by the Labor Commissioner, that allows the parent or guardian of a minor performer to obtain a temporary permit for the minor’s employment under certain circumstances.

And A Few Were Actually Vetoed!!   Some may find it instructive to see some key bills the Governor did veto.  Probably most notable was AB 325, a bereavement leave bill that would have prohibited employers from refusing to grant employees up to three days of unpaid bereavement leave.  The Governor noted that the vast majority of employers already voluntarily provide such unpaid leave, but codifying the practice would have created yet another private right to sue.  Similarly, the Governor vetoed SB 931, which would have authorized payment to employees using a payroll card on the ground that the law would have created costly, complicated new requirements for use of payroll cards by employers.  The Governor also vetoed AB 267, which would have made choice of law provisions in employment contracts void as a matter of public policy, on the ground that California law already prohibits application of laws that substantially diminish California employees’ rights.