From Breast Milk to Salary History: San Francisco Reminds Us that Employment Law in California Varies County to County

From Breast Milk to Salary History: San Francisco Reminds Us that Employment Law in California Varies County to County

San Francisco is known for mission burritos, the golden gate bridge, and some of the most progressive employment laws in the nation. That last point was proven twice over in recent months as Mayor Ed Lee signed two ordinances. The first sets forth requirements for employer-provided lactation locations at the work site. The second goes above and beyond the California Equal Pay Act in prohibiting employers from asking about and using employees’ salary history.

Lactation in the Workplace Ordinance

Employers in the City and County of San Francisco already had an obligation under California law to ensure that every employee seeking to pump breast milk at the workplace has a reasonable time and place to pump. Effective January 1, 2018, San Francisco will take that requirement a step further and will require employers to ensure the pumping location is: (1) safe, clean, and free of toxic or hazardous materials, (2) has a surface for placing a breast pump and personal items onto, (3) has seating, and (4) access to electricity. Further, employees must have access to a refrigerator and sink in “close proximity to the employee’s work area.” The ordinance does have an express exemption when the employer shows that the requirements would “impose an undue hardship by causing the employer significant expense or operational difficulty when considered in relation to the size, financial resources, nature, or structure of the employer’s business.” Specific hardship examples include: requiring the employer to build a room, undertake a construction project, remove seating from a restaurant, or remove retail floor space. The ordinance goes on to set record-keeping and notice requirements.

Parity in Pay Ordinance

While California already places greater restrictions on employers’ use of employees’ salary history than federal law, San Francisco again has made sure it is not outdone. Effective July 1, 2018, employers in San Francisco cannot consider an employee’s salary history in offering employment or determining what salary to offer an employee. An employer cannot take any action against an employee or applicant for refusing to disclose their salary. Employers cannot release an employee’s salary history without written authorization unless expressly required by law or a collective bargaining agreement. However, when an applicant voluntarily, and without prompting, discloses his or her salary history, employers may then consider that salary in determining the salary for that applicant or to verify that history with a previous employer. However, any such use of salary history is restricted under California Labor Code section 1197.5. Additionally, employers must provide notice of these provisions in all languages spoken by more than 5 percent of the workforce in San Francisco. (Currently: English, Spanish, Chinese, Filipino, Russian, and Vietnamese.)

Take Away

While San Francisco only accounts for about 2 percent of California’s population, these recent enactments combine to make a larger point: employers need to stay on top of not just federal and state employment laws, but county and city employment laws as well. If you have questions about whether your county and/or city places greater restrictions on your business, give our friendly employment law attorneys a call.

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