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3 other new laws for 2015 for employers and workers to know

As we noted earlier, the new year has brought with it a number of new laws that took effect as the clock ticked over to 2015. Five of them have specific implications for employers as regards the rights of employees.

We highlighted several of the changes in previous posts and today we look to close things out by touching on three other measures. One provides an extra bit of legal leverage in employee discrimination disputes. Another seeks to step up awareness in the workplace to prevent forms of abusive conduct. The last aims to provide added protection to potential foreign contract workers.

Let's begin with the anti-discrimination measure. As a result of AB 1443, discrimination and harassment protections now in place for most workers are extended to volunteers and unpaid interns, too. The change to the California Fair Employment and Housing Act also means that employers must provide reasonable accommodations, including for religion, to those in apprenticeships and intern programs.

The law aimed at clamping down on possible abusive conduct is AB 2053. What it requires is additional training for those who supervise employees about what constitutes abusive behavior. It's defined in the law as any action or statement against an employee that is unrelated to business interests and which a reasonable person would interpret as hostile, intimidating or offensive.

Notably, the law says a single instance of abusive verbiage or behavior doesn't count as a violation of the law, unless it's "especially severe and egregious."

The protections for potential foreign workers are found in AB 477. It requires individuals or companies that recruit foreign contract workers to be licensed, bonded and registered with the state by July 2016. It also forbids those firms from charging a potential recruit more than is customary for services and limits charges on housing workers to current market rates.

The law provides important safeguards to individuals, but they can only be enforced when everyone knows what their rights are. That is why when questions arise an attorney should be consulted.

Source: The Press-Enterprise, "CALIFORNIA: 5 new laws that will affect employers, workers," Richard K. De Atley, Jan. 11, 2015

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