The following are some of the highlights of new laws that took effect on Jan. 1, unless otherwise noted.
• Bicycle-passing distance (AB 1371) — Known as the Three Feet for Safety Act, a vehicle driver passing a bicycle that is traveling in the same direction must maintain a distance of no less than three feet between any part of the vehicle and any part of the bicycle or rider. When three feet is not possible, the motor vehicles are required to slow to a “reasonable and prudent speed” and pass only if there’s no danger to the bicyclist. Failing to do so can incur a fine, regardless of whether a collision results. This law will take effect Sept. 16.
• Clean-air vehicle decals/HOV stickers (AB 266, SB 286) — These laws extend sunset dates to Jan. 1, 2019 for single-occupant, low-emission and zero-emission vehicles to operate in high-occupancy vehicle lanes (HOV).
• DMV vehicle registration pilot program (SB 806) — This law authorizes the DMV to establish a pilot program to evaluate the use of alternatives to the current stickers, tabs, license plates and registration cards, but will be subject to certain requirements. It will also enable the DMV to experiment with electronic license plates, as well as facilitate the department’s ability to explore cost-effective alternatives to California’s traditional metal license plate, plastic-coated registration stickers and paper registration cards.
• Registration and vehicle transfers between family members (AB 443) — This law prohibits the transfer of vehicle ownership to a relative or a revocable living trust until the transferee pays all parking or toll-violation fines and penalties reported to the DMV.
• Search warrants: statute of limitations teen drivers (SB 194) — This law will prohibit anyone under 18 years of age from reading or sending texts while driving, even if the electronic device used is hands-free.
• AMBER Alert expansion (AB 535) — This law requires law enforcement to request activation of the AMBER Alerts after receiving a report that a child has been abducted by anyone, including a custodial parent or guardian, who may cause serious bodily injury or death to the child.
• Hit and run: statute of limitations (AB 184) — This law extends the statute of limitations for hit-and-run collisions from which death or permanent, serious injury resulted. A criminal complaint may be filed within three years of the offense, or one year after the person was initially identified by law enforcement as a suspect in the commission of the offense, which ever comes later, but in no case more than six years after the offense.
• Search warrants: chemical tests (SB 717) — This amendment to current law authorizes the issuance of a search warrant to draw blood from a person in a reasonable, medically approved manner, to show that the person violated misdemeanor DUI laws when that person has refused an officer’s request to submit to, or has failed to complete, a blood test. This law has been in effect since Sept. 20.
• Immigrant licenses (AB 60, effective Jan. 1, 2015) — Requires the DMV to issue a driver’s license to an applicant who is unable to submit proof he or she is legally present in the U.S. The department will draft new regulations and prepare field offices to process these new applications. Applicants will be required to meet all other driver’s license qualifications.
• Minimum wage (AB 10 and AB 442) — The minimum wage in California has not risen from its $8-an-hour benchmark since 2008. That will change on July 1, when the minimum wage goes to $9 an hour. Another increment occurs on Jan. 1, 2016, when the minimum wage rises to $10 an hour.
• Leave of absence for reserve peace officers/emergency rescue personnel (AB 11) — If you have employees who are also reserve peace officers or emergency rescue personnel, this new law mandates that employers with more than 50 employees must give temporary leaves of absence not only to volunteer firefighters for training but now to reserve peace officers and emergency rescue personnel. A leave of absence can be up to 14 days.
• Paid family leave of absence (SB 770) — Until now, employees have been allowed to receive up to six weeks of state disability insurance to care for an ill child, spouse, parent or domestic partner or build a relationship with an adopted or foster child. The latest version of the law now allows em-ployees to take time off to care for a seriously ill grandparent, grandchildren, sibling or in-law. This law takes effect July 1.
• Leave of absence for crime victims (SB 400 and SB 288) — Current law prohibits adverse employment action against an employee who is the victim of domestic violence or sexual assault and needs to take time off to seek relief. A new law (SB 400) expands that protection to victims of stalking and also provides that those employees be provided any requested safety while at work. Another new law (SB 288) prohibits employers from retaliating against an employee who is a victim of a crime for taking time off from work to appear in court to testify at related proceedings. This applies only to specific crimes that include solicitation for murder and vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.
• Whistleblower protections (SB 496) — Expands whistleblower protections to include reports alleging a violation of a local rule or regulation. It also protects employees who disclose or who might disclose information regarding alleged violations “to a person with authority over the employee or another employee who has authority to investigate, discover or correct the violation. SB 496 also prohibits retaliation against an employee because the employer “believes the employee disclosed or may disclose information.”
• Immigration status (AB 263 and SB 666) — Two new bills protect undocumented workers from retaliation or adverse actions when they file employment-related claims or complain about wage theft. Employers cannot threaten to contact immigration authorities about a worker’s legal status in the country because of the complaints. A penalty of up to $10,000 per employee can be issued to the employer per violation. In addition, state authorities can pull an employer’s business license for reporting or threatening to report a worker’s immigration status in response to an employee’s wage complaints.
• Attorney fees (SB 462) — A new law states that employers who win wage-claim lawsuits may recover attorneys’ fees and costs from the employee only if a trial court finds that the employee filed the lawsuit in bad faith.
• Recovery-rest periods (SB 435) — California law currently requires employers to give employees who work outside in weather exceeding 85 degrees several five-minute cool-down periods, or recovery periods, in a shaded area to protect from overheating. Under this expanded law, employers are prohibited from requiring employees from working during a recovery period and they must pay them one extra hour of pay for each workday a required recovery period is not provided.
• Anti-discrimination (SB 530 and AB 566) — Currently, state law restricts employers from considering certain criminal records in making hiring choices. Under SB 530, employers are prohibited from asking a prospective new hire to disclose information about a conviction that has been dismissed or ordered sealed unless certain limited exceptions apply.
• Domestic-work employees (AB 241) — The Domestic Worker Bill of Rights provides for specific overtime pay for certain in-home employees or a “domestic work employee who is a personal attendant.” Those with in-home help will need to carefully determine whe-ther the new law applies to them because AB 241 contains many specific definitions and exclusions.
• Sexual-harassment definition (SB 292) — Amends the definition of harassment to clarify that sexually harassing conduct does not need to be motivated by sexual desire. The law clarifies that hostile treatment can amount to unlawful sexual harassment, regardless of whether treatment was motivated by any sexual desire.
— For a complete list of new laws and descriptions, visit www.leginfo.ca.gov.