On October 8, 2023, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 636 ("AB 636"), which introduces substantial amendments to the Wage Theft Prevention Act, particularly impacting nonexempt employees and H-2A agricultural workers. AB 636 went into effect on January 1, 2024.
AB 636 discusses with the evolution of the Wage Theft Prevention Act ("The Act") since its inception in 2011. The Act, initially focused on providing basic wage and hour information, has seen subsequent amendments to include sick leave rights and additional disclosures for temporary workers. The current legislation aims to further extend these notice requirements, especially targeting vulnerable H-2A farmworkers.
Key Provisions and Requirements:
Expansion of Notice Requirements for H-2A Farmworkers:
- The notice requirements are extended to employers of farmworkers brought into California under the federal H-2A agricultural worker visa program.
- The intention is to equip H-2A farmworkers with comprehensive information about their legal rights and empower them to quickly identify workplace law compliance.
Necessity of the Notice:
- Given the substantial influx of more than 43,000 foreign agricultural temporary workers in the 2022 fiscal year, the Legislature deems it crucial to ensure these workers are informed about their basic legal rights.
- Many H-2A workers, potentially unfamiliar with California laws, may be provided with false or misleading information about their rights.
Content of the Notice:
- The notice must include information about fundamental California labor, housing, health and safety laws, and emergency or disaster declarations that may impact the workers' health and safety during their employment.
Language and Compliance:
- The notice must be provided in Spanish and, upon the employee's request, in English.
- Employers of H-2A workers must comply with the new notice requirements by giving workers a copy of the template developed by the Labor Commissioner.
Amendments to Labor Code Section 2810.5
AB 636 amends Section 2810.5 of the Labor Code to incorporate these changes. The amended section requires employers to provide a written notice to each employee at the time of hiring, and within seven days of any change to the information.
- General Notice Requirements: Effective January 1, 2024, nonexempt employees should receive updated notices reflecting the new requirements.
- H-2A Farmworkers: Effective March 15, 2024, employers of H-2A agricultural workers must comply with the extended notice requirements.
Compliance Challenges and Recommendations:
- Immediate Action for Nonexempt Employees: Employers must promptly update notices for nonexempt employees to adhere to the amended law.
- Awaiting Labor Commissioner's Template: Employers of H-2A workers should await the template prepared by the Labor Commissioner, expected to be available by March 1, 2024.
AB 636 represents a significant step in ensuring that H-2A farmworkers are adequately informed about their rights under California law. Employers are urged to comply with these new requirements.
If you have any questions regarding your company's policies or need guidance on California employment law, contact the Law Office of Catherine Chukwueke and schedule a consultation. We are here to help you navigate the complexities of employment law with confidence.
Disclaimer: This article has been prepared and published for informational purposes only and is not offered, nor should be construed, as legal advice.