On June 28, 2014, Governor Gerry Brown signed several bills that expand employee rights in California. Among these are Assembly Bill 2751, authored by Assemblymember Roger Hernández (D – West Covina), and Senate Bill 1360, authored by Senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima).

A.B. 2751, which amend Sections 98.6, 1019, and 1024.6 of California’s Labor Code, clarifies a prior bill Hernández authored, A.B. 263, prohibiting employers from using immigration status against workers who exercise their rights under the California Labor Code or local ordinances.  According to Hernández, undocumented workers are more likely to experience wage and work hour law violations.  Approximately 76 percent of these employees worked off the clock without pay, while over 85 percent did not receive overtime pay. Therefore, A.B. 2751 further strengthens the protections afforded by A.B. 263.

Under existing law, an employer who retaliates against an employee or applicant who exercises a right protected under local and state labor and employment law must pay a civil penalty of up to $10,000.  The new law ensures that this penalty is awarded to the affected employee(s).  The new law further clarifies that an employer may not retaliate against an employee because the employee updates his or her personal information based on a lawful change of name, social security number, or federal employment authorization document. Finally, the new law includes within the definition of “unfair           immigration-related practice” an employer’s threat to file a false report or complaint with any state or federal agency against an employee who attempts to exercise a right protected under local or state employment laws.

S.B. 1360 amends Section 226.7 of California’s Labor Code to require that workers be paid during mandated rest and recovery periods in work environments where there is high risk of heat related illness and injury, such as agriculture, landscaping and transportation. Although current state law requires employers to provide employees who are exposed to extreme heat at their job site to take at least a five minute rest and recovery period in the shade to against overheating, workers often do not do so because these breaks are unpaid. According to Padilla, requiring these breaks to be paid will eliminate that problem.