Last week we introduced some new California employment laws going into effect Jan. 1, 2013. Some of this year's laws affecting employees focused on workplace protections for religious expression and dress, as well as on recordkeeping practices to improve transparency and access for workers.
Other new laws will make it illegal for employers to discriminate against women who are breastfeeding or are in a position to start breastfeeding. California has expanded the definition of "sex" in the Fair Employment and Housing Act to treat any such discrimination as sex discrimination.
Another, which has probably received the most attention of the bunch, prohibits employers from requiring that employees or job applicants to turn over usernames and passwords for social media accounts. It allows employers to request such information, but only for workplace investigations of misconduct and only that purpose.
Employers are already barred from asking job applicants or employees about their age, race, marital status, disability status or other traits that are safeguarded from discrimination. Some advocates of the new law argued that access to a job applicant's facebook credentials could lead employers to learn things about an employee that they're not supposed to consider in the hiring process.
The law builds in some flexibility for employers by allowing them to request or require access to devices that they provide to employees. However, it does not establish any framework for determining privacy rights on employee-owned devices that they use for work. These questions of employee privacy could end up being resolved in court or through later legislation.
If you are involved in an employment dispute at work, consider speaking with an experienced employment law attorney. They can help you review your case and pursue any legal remedies while making sure your rights as an employee are protected.
Source: The San Francisco Chronicle, "A look at new California workplace laws," Kathleen Pender, Oct. 31, 2012
To learn more about employment law in California, please take a look at our website.