New Laws in California Will Affect Small Businesses in Many Ways

You may have made a few resolutions to start the New Year; California made a few laws – in fact, 898 new laws are going into effect in 2017, and some might affect small businesses in more ways than you might imagine.

Wages — and Equal Pay Protections — Rise

Employers are required to post the new California Minimum Wage Official Notice alerting workers that companies with more than 26 workers must pay at least $10.50 an hour. For companies with 25 or fewer workers, the new wage is $10 per hour. In many places around the state, though, the law surpassed. Several municipalities in Silicon Valley are instituting minimum wages closer to $13 an hour.

Other new legislation is aimed at ensuring people receive equal pay. Currently, employers cannot pay women lower rates than men for essentially the same work. The same protection is provided to people based on race and ethnicity.

Another new statue decreed that disparities in compensation could not be justified by prior wages, noting that lower prior wages might simply “reflect widespread, long-standing, gender-based wage disparities in the labor market.”

Parts of the Past Are Off-Limits In Hiring

Hiring and employment contracts are affected by new laws. Employers cannot ask job applicants to disclose their arrest or other interactions with juvenile court, and that information cannot be used as a factor in hiring someone.

There are also changes in how you can settle disputes with employees. If your small business employs some salespeople or other workers in the Golden State, take note of this. Employers cannot require an employee who primarily resides and works in California to agree to bring a claim or file a lawsuit in another state if the claim arises in California.

Blowing Smoke (Not)

California received a lot of hoopla for legalizing the recreational use of marijuana for people over age 21; however, another aspect of the law has received less attention: employers may still prohibit workers from inhaling on the job. They can also test workers for marijuana before they’re hired or anytime there’s a reasonable suspicion of impairment.

While grass got the green light, lawmakers broadened the prohibition of smoking in the workplace. They removed previous exemptions for bars, hotel lobbies, warehouse factories and several other areas.

While you might not be able to smoke ’em if you got ’em, you may be able to pour yourself a good still drink. Beauty salons and barbershops will be able to provide patrons with free beer or wine until 10 p.m. This was to cater to the growing trend of pampering customers while attending to their locks.

A Bathroom For Everyone

This just shows that everyone follows what Starbucks does. Any business or public place that offers single-user toilet facilities must make them all-gender. The move, applauded by advocates for women’s rights and the LGBT community, won’t be too costly to businesses. They’ll just need to change their signage, which should cost about $40 per bathroom.

The company medicine cabinet just got a boost, as well. Any business can stock EpiPens in case life-threatening allergic reactions need to be treated. Even as he signed the law, though, Gov. Jerry Brown chided the makers of the device for their “rapacious corporate behavior” in raising their prices.

Putting the Kibosh on Instagraming Drivers

If your workers drive on the job, they’re already banned from texting while driving, but even more stringent requirements are going into making the highways safer: Californians can no longer use handheld wireless phones or devices while driving, unless the equipment is mounted on the dashboard and doesn’t inhibit their view of the road. So check your directions and Facebook likes before you put the key in the ignition.

Be Happy If You Don’t Own Cows

Farmers have their own new challenges that other small businesses are probably glad they don’t have to deal with. Among the newly regulated activities are – no kidding – cow farts. The law reduces global warming when a cow produces methane by belching or passing gas. Farmers will need to employ devices like methane digesters, which capture methane from manure in large storage tanks and convert them into electricity.

As far as dealing with the cow belches – we’ll leave that to your imagination. Sometimes following the letter of the law isn’t pretty.

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