2019 Changes in California Labor Law (Part II)
The minimum wage requirements in California have changed for 2019. Minimum wage for employers with 25 employees or less goes from $10.50 per hour in 2018 to $11.00 per hour in 2019. Minimum wage for employers with 26 or more employees goes from $11.00 per hour in 2018 to $12.00 per hour in 2019. This change also affects the minimum salary employees exempt from overtime requirements must be paid. The minimum exempt annual salary increases to $49,920 in 2019 for employers with more than 26 employees and increase to $45,760 in 2019 for employers with 25 or less employees. Keep in mind that some California cities have higher minimum wage requirements.
Confidentiality in Settlement Agreements
A number of laws were added regarding the enforceability of contracts that prevent a party from testifying about alleged criminal conduct or sexual harassment. One new law voids contractual provisions that waive a party’s right to testify in an administrative, legislative or judicial proceeding concerning alleged criminal conduct or alleged sexual harassment on the part of the other party to the contract or settlement agreement, when the party has been required or requested to attend by court order, subpoena or written request. The legislature also prohibited provisions in settlement agreements that prevent the disclosure of factual information related to a claim filed in a civil action or in an administrative action based on sexual assault, sexual harassment or discrimination or retaliation for reporting sexual harassment or discrimination. Additionally, it is now unlawful to require employees to release claims of discrimination or harassment or agree not to discuss unlawful acts in the workplace in exchange for a raise, bonus, employment or continued employment unless the agreement is the result of a negotiated resolution of a lawsuit, administrative agency complaint or internal complaint by an employee (so long as the release isn’t otherwise prohibited).
These new “sunshine” laws regarding settlement agreements and employment conditions constitute a significant change in California law in connection with settlement of workplace disputes. Settlement agreements will have to be significantly different related to negotiated confidentiality. The confidentiality that is often a negotiated benefit for a settling party may no longer provide much confidentiality at all.