October marks National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.  Fittingly, on September 14, 2016, the Governor signed into law AB 2337, which imposes on employers a new obligation to give written notice of workplace rights that must be afforded to victims of domestic violence.  In light of this new notice requirement, California employers should make sure they are familiar with existing protections afforded victims of domestic violence and also implement a plan to comply with the new notice requirement.

Existing Protections under the Labor Code for Victims of Domestic Violence

Section 230 of the Labor Code prohibits an employer from terminating, discriminating, or retaliating against an employee who is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, and who takes time off from work to seek any relief, such as, for example, a restraining order.  Section 230 also prohibits an employer from discharging, discriminating, or otherwise retaliating against an employee because the employee is or has been a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.

In addition to these protections, an employer must provide reasonable accommodation to an employee who requests an accommodation for his or her safety at work.  Such accommodations may include, but are not limited to, a transfer, reassignment, modified work schedule, or change in work telephone number.  Any employee who is terminated, threatened with termination, demoted, or suspended because of his or her status as a victim, or a request to take time off, may seek reinstatement, payment for lost wages and work benefits.

For employers with at least 25 employees, Labor Code Section 230.1 permits the victim-employee to take time off for medical attention, obtaining services from a domestic violence shelter, program, a rape crisis center, counseling, or participation in activities to increase the employee’s safety.  An affected employee may use vacation time, personal time off, paid sick leave, or compensatory time off for any of these purposes.  Labor Code Section 230.1 prohibits an employer from taking adverse action against an employee for taking such time off. 

New Notice Requirements Added by to the Labor Code by AB 2337

AB 2337 adds a new written notice requirement to an employer’s obligations. Employers with 25 or more employees must now provide each employee with written notice of their rights under Labor Code sections 230 and 230.1 at the time of hire or upon request.

AB2337 directs the Labor Commissioner to create a form containing all the information required by the new legislation and to post it to the Labor Commissioner’s website no later than July 1, 2017.  Employers are not required to comply with the new notice requirement until the Labor Commissioner has posted the form to its website.  Because the Legislature created a deadline for compliance that is determined by the date the Labor Commissioner posts the form on its website, employers may either wait for the Labor Commissioner to post its form and then use that form for compliance or develop their own compliant form and implement at the convenience of the employer ahead of schedule.

What Employers Should Do Now?

  • Ensure that management and supervisors are fully aware of the protections afforded victims of domestic violence.
  • If appropriate, reference these protections in your company’s employee handbook or policies.
  • Be prepared to implement the new written notice to employees at time of hire and to other employees on request as soon as the Labor Commissioner posts a form to its website.
  • Consider developing a compliant written notice and implementing ahead of schedule at the company’s convenience, for example, with an employee handbook update.

If you have questions about the workplace protections afforded victims of domestic violence, the new written notice requirement, or any other questions related to employment law, please contact one of our attorneys.

Daniel F. Pyne III
Karen Reinhold
Ernest M. Malaspina
Richard M. Noack
Shirley Jackson
Jasmine Anderson

The Hopkins & Carley Employment Law Department provides clients with a comprehensive array of services relating to employment and human resources management, including both counseling and representation in litigation.