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California Governor Okays Bills to Regulate Groundwater Amid Drought

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The following article was written by Aaron Mendelson and
appeared in Yahoo News

California Governor Jerry Brown signed a package of bills on Tuesday to regulate California's stressed groundwater supplies amid a drought that is expected to cost the state $2.2 billion in lost crops, jobs and other damages, with no end in sight.

The bills will allow the state to take over management of underground aquifers and water accessed via wells, and aim to tighten oversight of water at a time when groundwater levels are shrinking in the third year of a catastrophic drought.

"We have to learn to manage wisely water, energy, land and our investments," Brown said as he signed the bills despite opposition from some farm and agricultural industry groups. "That's why this is important."

Farmers in California's agricultural heartland rely on water from wells to irrigate their crops when the state cuts back on supplies from streams and the fragile San Joaquin-Sacramento River Delta.

About a million Californians rely on private wells for drinking water, many of which have gone dry as groundwater levels have receded. But while California uses more groundwater than many other states, it lacks the oversight common elsewhere.

Recent studies have shown groundwater levels receding throughout the Southwest, prompting concern among environmentalists and others that usage needs to be better regulated.

The bills Brown signed will require that hard-hit groundwater basins adopt sustainability plans by January 2020, although high and medium priority basins not considered subject to critical overdraft will have an additional two years.

All groundwater plans must achieve sustainability within 20 years of adoption, and local agencies managing them must report to the state Department of Water Resources every five years.

The bills also outline enforcement mechanisms, and the regulations are expected to cost the state roughly $5.5 million in annual costs by the 2017-2018 fiscal year. Some costs would be offset by fees.

Some agricultural companies and farm groups had argued against the bills, which they called hastily written, saying they would impose rigid guidelines on farmers while failing to address needs of agricultural water users in the Central Valley.

"While there is legitimate concern about the over-drafting of some groundwater basins, this massive expansion of state authority will not solve the problem," said Connie Conway, the Republican Minority Leader in the state Assembly.

In November, California voters will vote on Proposition 1, the $7.6 billion "water bond" intended to improve water supplies in the state.

Pending California Legislation (Part 2 of 2)

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Please note that the status of the bills may change daily. Governor Brown has until September 30, 2014 to sign or veto legislation in his possession or the legislation becomes law without signature.

 

SB 25 Agricultural Labor Relations: Dispute Resolution

Steinberg (D-Sacramento)

SUMMARY: Existing law provides that within 60 days of a decision by the Agricultural Labor Relations Board taking effect, a party may file an action to enforce the order, using specified procedures. Existing law provides that during the pendency of any appeal of the board's order, the order may not be stayed unless the appellant demonstrates that he or she is likely to prevail on the merits and that he or she will be irreparably harmed by implementation of the board's order.

This bill would provide that an action to enforce the order of the board may be filed within 60 days whether or not the other party is seeking judicial review of the order. The bill would also increase the evidentiary threshold for the court to grant a stay of the board's order and require the court to make written findings supporting any order granting a stay of the order during the pendency of the appeal.

PASSED Senate 05/06/14

PASSED Assembly 08/19/14

Not signed into law yet.

SB 477 Foreign Labor Contractors: Registration

Steinberg (D-Sacramento)

SUMMARY: This bill would change the definition of a foreign labor contractor to mean a person who performs foreign labor contracting activity, as defined. The bill, on and after July 1, 2016, would require a foreign labor contractor to register with the Labor Commissioner and would impose certain conditions for registration, including payment of specified fees. The bill would further require persons knowingly using the services of foreign labor contractors to obtain foreign workers to disclose specified information to the commissioner.

PASSED Senate  6/30/14

PASSED Assembly 08/25/14

Not signed into law yet.

SB 1087 Farm Labor Contractors: Sexual Harassment

Monning (D-Monterey)

SUMMARY: This bill would prohibit a license to operate as a farm labor contractor from being granted to a person who, within the preceding 3 years, has been found by a court or an administrative agency to have committed sexual harassment of an employee, or who, within the preceding 3 years, employed any supervisory employee whom he or she knew or should have known has been found by a court or an administrative agency, within the preceding 3 years of his or her employment with the applicant, to have committed sexual harassment of an employee.

This bill would additionally authorize the Labor Commissioner to revoke, suspend, or refuse to renew a farm labor contractor's license if the licensee has been found by a court or an administrative agency to have committed sexual harassment of an employee, or has employed a supervisory employee whom he or she knew or should have known has been found by a court or an administrative agency, within the preceding 3 years, to have committed sexual harassment of an employee.

This bill would increase the license fee paid by an applicant from $500 to $600, thereby making an appropriation. The bill would require the amount attributable to the fee increase to be expended by the Labor Commissioner to fund the Farm Labor Contractor Enforcement Unit and the Farm Labor Contractor License Verification Unit.

PASSED Senate 05/29/14

PASSED Assembly 08/14/14

Not signed into law yet.

Counsel to Management: For questions regarding the pending California legislation, please contact The Saqui Law Group.

 

 

New Laws Place Additional Burdens on California Employers

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AB 1522: Paid Sick Leave

Gonzalez (D-San Antonio)

SUMMARY: This bill enacts the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014 to provide that an employee who, on or after July 1, 2015, works in California for 30 or more days within a year from the commencement of employment is entitled to paid sick days for prescribed purposes, to be accrued at a rate of no less than one hour for every 30 hours worked. An employee would be entitled to use accrued sick days beginning on the 90th day of employment.

The bill authorizes an employer to limit an employee's use of paid sick days to 24 hours or 3 days in each year of employment. The bill prohibits an employer from discriminating or retaliating against an employee who requests paid sick days. The bill requires employers to satisfy specified posting, notice, and recordkeeping requirements and defines terms for those purposes.

STATUS: Signed into law 09/10/14.

AB 1443: FEHA Protection Expanded to Unpaid Interns

Skinner (D-Berkeley)

SUMMARY: This bill provides that discrimination against any person in the selection, termination, training, or other terms or treatment of that person in an unpaid internship, or another limited duration program to provide unpaid work experience for that person, or the harassment of an unpaid intern or volunteer, on account of the factors described above is an unlawful employment practice.

STATUS: Signed into law 09/09/14.

AB 2053: Abusive Conduct Training for Supervisors

Gonzalez (D-San Antonio)

SUMMARY: Existing law also requires employers, as defined, with 50 or more employees to provide at least 2 hours of training and education regarding sexual harassment to all supervisory employees, as specified. Existing law requires each employer to provide that training and education to each supervisory employee once every 2 years.

This bill additionally requires that the above-described training and education include, as a component of the training and education, prevention of abusive conduct, as defined.

"Abusive conduct" means conduct of an employer or employee in the workplace, with malice, that a reasonable person would find hostile, offensive, and unrelated to an employer's legitimate business interests. Abusive conduct may include repeated infliction of verbal abuse, such as the use of derogatory remarks, insults, and epithets, verbal or physical conduct that a reasonable person would find threatening, intimidating, or humiliating, or the gratuitous sabotage or undermining of a person's work performance. A single act shall not constitute abusive conduct, unless especially severe and egregeous.

STATUS: signed into law 09/09/14.

SB 1360: Rest and Recovery Periods Counted as Hours Worked

Padilla (D-Los Angeles)

SUMMARY: This bill provides that a rest or recovery period mandated pursuant to a state law, including, but not limited to, an applicable statute, or applicable regulation, standard, or order of the IWC, the board, or the division, shall be counted as hours worked, for which there shall be no deduction from wages. The bill would declare that provision to be declaratory of existing law.

STATUS: Signed into law on 06/28/14.

Counsel to Management: For questions regarding the new California legislation, please contact The Saqui Law Group.

 

Pending California Legislation (Part 1 of 2)

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Please note that the status of the bills may change daily. Governor Brown has until September 30, 2014 to sign or veto legislation in his possession or the legislation becomes law without signature.

AB 1897 Labor Contracting: Client Liability

Hernandez (D-West Covina)

SUMMARY: This bill would require a client employer to share with a labor contractor all civil legal responsibility and civil liability for all workers supplied by that labor contractor for the payment of wages and the failure to obtain valid workers' compensation coverage. The bill would prohibit a client employer from shifting to the labor contractor legal duties or liabilities under workplace safety provisions with respect to workers provided by the labor contractor.

PASSED Assembly 05/29/14

PASSED Senate 08/27/14

Not signed into law yet.

AB 1660 Driver's Licenses: Nondiscrimination

Alejo (D-Watsonville)

SUMMARY: Existing law requires the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to issue an original driver's license to a person who is unable to submit satisfactory proof that the applicant's presence in the United States is authorized under federal law if he or she meets all other qualifications for licensure and provides satisfactory proof to the department of his or her identity and California residency.

This bill would additionally make it a violation of the California Fair Housing and Employment Act (FEHA) for an employer or other covered entity to discriminate against an individual because he or she holds or presents a driver's license issued under these provisions or to require a person to present a driver's license, except as specified.

The bill would making conforming changes to FEHA to specify that discrimination on the basis of national origin includes, but is not limited to, discrimination on the basis of possessing a driver's license granted under these provisions.

The bill would also prohibit a governmental authority, or agent of a governmental authority, or person acting on behalf of a governmental authority, from discriminating against an individual because he or she holds or presents a license issued pursuant to those provisions. The bill would provide that an action taken by an employer to comply with any requirement or prohibition under the federal Immigration and Nationality Act is not a violation of law.

PASSED Assembly 05/01/14

PASSED Senate 08/26/14

Not signed into law yet.

AB 1634 OSHA: Violations

Skinner (D-Berkeley)

SUMMARY: This bill would prohibit the Division of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) from granting, for serious violations, a proposed modification to civil penalties for abatement or credit for abatement unless the employer has abated the violation, as specified, or has submitted a statement to the division in accordance with existing law, and would additionally require supporting evidence with the statement where necessary. The bill would authorize the division to grant such a modification only if the violation has been abated, as specified, or the signed statement and supporting evidence is received within 10 working days after the end of the period fixed for abatement.

The bill would generally prohibit the stay or suspension of a requirement to abate the hazards affirmed by the decision or order during the pendency before the appeals board of a petition for reconsideration of a citation for a violation that is classified as a serious violation, repeat serious violation, or willful serious violation.

The bill would authorize the appeals board to stay or suspend an abatement, upon petition by the employer, only if the employer demonstrates that a stay or suspension will not adversely affect the health and safety of employees.

PASSED Assembly 05/28/14

PASSED Senate 08/27/14

Not signed into law yet.

Counsel to Management: For questions regarding the pending California legislation, please contact The Saqui Law Group.

 

Fast-Food Workers Protest to Raise Minimum Wage to $15 an Hour

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Source: CBS Los Angeles (losangeles.cbslocal.com)

Police said 10 protestors were arrested Thursday during a march downtown Los Angeles, California, for higher wages. About 300 employees and supporters in Los Angeles, as well as in more than 150 other cities, were taking part in sit-ins at McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger Kings and other chain locations as a more “militant” phase of the “Fight for $15″ movement.

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California Supreme Court Rejects NLRB Ruling on Franchisee Employees

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The National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) has previously ruled that McDonald's, USA, LLC can be liable as a joint employer with its franchise operators for labor law and wage and hour violations. (Previously reported by The Saqui Law Group here.)

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CONTINUED SPOTLIGHT ON SWEEPS AND NEW HARASSMENT LEGISLATION!

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DLSE Sweeps Update on FLC Signage

Keeping our finger on the pulse of the DLSE's unannounced site visits this week to check for FLC sign compliance, our continued incoming industry reports demonstrate these DLSE surprise visits are persisting this week and are likely to continue.

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DLSE SWEEPS IN SONOMA COUNTY!

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This is an important notice that the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement “DLSE” is sweeping Sonoma County and other areas, specifically targeting farm labor contractors, including vineyard management companies who must also be licensed FLC’s. Among other things, the DLSE is looking for compliance with the mandatory posting of FLC signage. At this time, the sweeps seem to be advisory in nature but FLC’s are being told the DLSE will issue citations on the next non-compliant visit.

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Are You Reimbursing Employees For Cell Phones?

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The Court of Appeal has recently held  that an employer must reimburse employees when they use their personal cell phones for work-related calls.  Cochran v. Schwan’s Home Service, Inc. (B247160). The Court relied on Labor Code section 2802 which requires employers to indemnify employees for all the necessary expenditures or losses incurred by the employees in the scope of their employment. 

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President Obama Looks to Executive Action for Immigration Reform

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On Wednesday, President Obama suggested that he will use his executive power to advance immigration reform. Due to Congressional inaction, Obama has said he has no choice but to act alone. “In the face of that kind of dysfunction, what I can do is scour our authorities to try to make progress,” Obama said. “And we’re going to make sure that every time we take one of these steps that we are working within the confines of my executive power. But I promise you, the American people don’t want me just standing around twiddling my thumbs and waiting for Congress.”

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