Business & Real Estate

New workplace laws raise minimum wage

Minimum wage in Mountain View has been jumping by $2 per year recently, reaching $15 Jan. 1.

The increases stem from a 2015 ordinance that targeted attaining $15 by this year, with subsequent annual minimum wage adjustments pegged to the region’s Consumer Price Index, a measure of how the price of goods like food has increased over time.

Many cities across the region joined the $15 bandwagon, but few other than Mountain View and Sunnyvale have reached it yet. Los Altos, for instance, targeted that amount, but on a longer timeline – minimum pay rose in January from $12 to $13.50, with $15 set for next year. Palo Alto and Santa Clara follow the same schedule.

Statewide, minimum wage depends on a business’ size. Organizations larger than 25 employees must pay at least $11, those smaller pay a minimum $10.50 per hour.

National minimum wage, which hasn’t increased since 2009, is still set at $7.25 – an amount 29 states have voted to surpass. According to the Economic Policy Institute, a labor-focused think tank, the nationwide minimum wage would be set at $19 if wages had kept pace with productivity over the past 60 years.

Other new laws affect businesses, employment

Two new laws that took effect Jan. 1 control what information prospective employers can seek about job candidates.

Assembly Bill 168 makes an applicant’s salary history confidential and prohibits using an applicant’s previous salary to influence hiring decisions or set pay rates.

The bill aims to address systemic pay inequities, particularly between male and female jobholders, by starting all candidates on closer to even footing.

The law specifically prohibits inquiring into a candidate’s salary history and requires disclosure of a job’s pay scales upon request. Employers will need to update their documents and procedures to make it clear that they do not request salary information during the hiring process, and to prepare pay ranges to disclose upon request.

AB 1008 extends an existing law meant to prevent bias regarding criminal history in the hiring process. It permits criminal history inquiries only after a conditional offer of employment has been issued, and requires notification and explanation when that history changes a hiring choice.

Other states, including Virginia, Maryland and Hawaii, have similar rules. AB 1008 extends a 2013 law to apply the principles to companies with as few as five employees. Jobs that require a legally mandated background check are exempted from the bill.

Senate Bill 63 extends existing maternity and paternity leave benefits for employees who work at a company with 20 or more people. Although it does not fund the period of leave, it does require that new parents are protected from firing and maintained on health benefits. Under SB 63, parents, including adoptive and foster parents, qualify for up to 12 weeks of leave. Until now, only companies with 50 or more employees were required to provide this option.

Other new laws on the books expand whistleblower protections (SB 306) and require employers to restrict access to employees and provide notification during immigration enforcement actions (AB 450).

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