On Thursday, October 10, 2019, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law several new measures that employers will need to comply with by January 1, 2020 and that will generally make it easier for employees to sue their employers.  Specifically:

  • AB 9 extends the statute of limitations period for employees to file claims of discrimination, harassment and/or retaliation with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”) from one to three years.  Employees would then have one more year (after their receipt of a right-to-sue letter from the DFEH) to file a civil action in court.  In short, employers could find themselves defending against claims for workplace incidents that occurred as long as four years in the past.
  • AB 51 prohibits “any person” from requiring an applicant for employment or employee to “consent to the waiver of any right, forum, or procedure for a violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act or [the Labor] code,” which purports to make illegal workplace arbitration agreements that are entered into, modified, or extended on or after January 1, 2020.  Although the statute expressly states that the law does not intend to invalidate a written arbitration agreement that is otherwise enforceable under the Federal Arbitration Act (the “FAA”), chances are that this law will be challenged almost immediately based upon FAA preemption, which is precisely what occurred after a similar law was recently enacted in New York.  See Latif v. Morgan Stanley & Co.
  • SB 142 expands California’s lactation accommodation requirements, including requirements that the lactation room or location be “safe, clean, and free of hazardous materials” and:
    • Contain a surface to place a breast pump and personal items
    • Contain a place to sit
    • Provides access to electricity or alternative devices, including, but not limited to, extension cords or charging stations, needed to operate an electric or battery-powered breast pump
    • Further, the employer shall provide access to a sink with running water and a refrigerator (or cooling device or cooler) in close proximity to the employee’s workspace