03 Nov 2017 California Governor Signs SB 306 into Law Creating New Labor Protections
Just when you thought the state of California could not get any friendlier to laborers, the governor signed SB 306 into law and provided even more protections to California workers. The new law greatly expands the power of the California Labor Commission and grants several new rights to workers in the state. At the same time, it reduces the burden of proof that workers need to meet in order to get relief from employers.
The big changes in this law deal with retaliation claims made against employers. In the recent past we have observed that ex-employees are filing retaliation claims against their employers in increasing numbers, and that trend will only continue because of this law. Retaliation claims are one way a terminated or disciplined employee can “get even” with an employer, or get a settlement before moving on to new employment.
Lower Burden of Proof for California Workers
The most significant and impactful aspect of this law is how it lowers the burden of proof for a claimant to obtain injunctive relief and return to work pending litigation. Injunctive relief means that the judge can order one party to refrain from doing something, or to do something. This means the employer will have no choice in the matter.
Historically, and across the country, the standard for getting a judge to issue an injunctive order is high. Typically, a claimant must show three things before a judge will order a party to do or refrain from doing something. Those three things are:
- Establishing that there will be irreparable harm if the action is not ordered;
- There is a substantial likelihood of winning the case on the merits; and
- Both of these outweigh the harm that will come to the defendant if the relief is granted.
As you can see, this is a difficult test to meet and sets a high bar in court. That is why injunctive relief is not routinely granted in any case.
SB 306 changes this legal arithmetic significantly. Under the terms of the new law, these three legal hurdles are removed, and a judge must order injunctive relief when the claimant can prove that there is reasonable cause that the employee was unlawfully discharged or disciplined. This is big, and could prove to be a costly change going forward. Now it will be relatively simple to get a judge to sign an order putting a discharged employee back to work as long as the employee can show there was reasonable cause that he or she was harassed or otherwise wrongfully terminated.
Additional Changes to California Labor Laws
There are other significant changes to the labor code of which each employer in the state of California should be aware. Some of the bigger changes include:
- Granting new powers to the Labor Commission to investigate workplace violations without a claim from an employee;
- A revamped retaliation enforcement process; and
- Bigger penalties for Labor Code violations.
These are just some of the new changes taking place, and the devil is in the details. That is where we come in. At the Royse Law Firm, we have a practice group dedicated to California and federal labor law. Contact us to learn what every employer needs to know and how you can prepare for these new labor protections. We look forward to helping you understand how this new law and other laws can fit into your strategy for success.