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New year means new regulations for businesses

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California law now prohibits companies with five or more employees fom requiring job applicants to disclose information about their criminal history. Another new law prevents employers from inquiring about an applicant’s prior salary, compensation or benefits. (Courtesy photo)

It’s a new year, and with it comes a slew of new laws that are going to impact San Francisco businesses. Let’s take a look at a few that take effect in 2018, and how employers can adapt and improve their practices.

Minimum Wage: Mayor Ed Lee was a champion for raising the minimum wage and led a ballot measure that passed overwhelmingly in November 2014 to gradually increase the local minimum wage. As of July 1, 2018, the San Francisco minimum wage will be $15 an hour and will subsequently increase annually according to increases in the cost of living. If you have employees in other Bay Area communities, make sure to check the local wage rate as many increased on Jan. 1.

Parental Leave for Small Business: This year, California expanded parental leave protections to cover employees who work at businesses with 20 or more employees within a 75-mile radius with up to 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave to bond with a new child. Employees of larger businesses previously had job protected leave under federal law, but this now extends it to approximately 2.7 million Californians who work for companies with between 20 and 49 employees.

Lactation in the Workplace: In 2017, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed first-in-the-nation legislation that set specific space requirements and processes for new mothers wishing to pump breast milk in the workplace. The ordinance, which became effective on Monday, defines minimum standards for lactation accommodation spaces, requires tenant improvements in buildings to include lactation rooms and outlines best practices. All employees in San Francisco are covered by the ordinance, though businesses may file hardship exemptions through the Office of Labor Standards Enforcement.

Ban-the-Box Law: The new California law prohibits companies with five or more employees from requiring job applicants to disclose information about their criminal history or considering a criminal history at any time before an offer of employment is made. This is a companion to a local ordinance, so it’s important to check with The City’s Labor Standards and Enforcement Office to see how the laws may differ.

Salary History is History:
Employers can no longer inquire about an applicant’s prior salary, compensation or benefits. However, if an applicant shares his or her salary history without prompting, then an employer can take it into consideration. The aim of the legislation is to close the wage gap between men and women, and not perpetuate the long standing wage disparities throughout a woman’s career.

Female, Male or Nonbinary:  California now recognizes a third gender on identification documents, including driver’s licenses and birth certificates. For birth certificates, the law is effective on Sept. 1, 2018, and for driver’s licenses it goes into effect Jan. 1, 2019. Employers should consider updating their own forms asking employees to identify as male or female to include “nonbinary” as a gender choice to reflect the new law.

Cannabis Legalization: Now that recreational cannabis is legal, employers should create workplace policies to support their position on usage during work hours. Employers continue to have the right to maintain a drug- and alcohol-free workplace, and to prohibit usage, consumption and possession, if they desire.

California and San Francisco’s political and regulatory environment is complex, and often comes with excessive mandates on our business community. The San Francisco Chamber will continue to monitor these issues and work closely with our local and state legislators to make them less burdensome for business. On behalf of our 2,500 members, we are committed to fighting for pro-business legislation to create a favorable climate where businesses can thrive.

Tallia Hart is president and CEO of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.

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