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DIR highlights new labor laws in the new year

Posted: January 3, 2011 2:20 p.m.
Updated: January 4, 2011 2:20 p.m.

SAN FRANCISCO -- As the new year begins, the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) reminds employers of new labor laws. The intent of the new legislation varies from providing more flexibility to employers, to expanding paid leave for employees. The following new laws went into effect on Jan. 1, 2011:

New Off-Duty Meal Break Exemptions
AB 569 provides greater legal clarity to Labor Code section 512(a) which requires employers to provide their employees, who work more than six hours in a day, one 30-minute off-duty meal break after five hours of work.

The new law adds section 512.7 to the Labor Code and will exempt from the off-duty meal break requirement workers in specific industries who are covered by a collective bargaining agreement that contains meal period provisions. The employee groups include: construction workers, commercial drivers, security officers and employees of electrical and gas corporations or local publicly-owned electric utilities. These are industries or positions where it was deemed an off-duty meal break can be impractical. The revision was made to better meet the requirements of the particular positions.

The bill was introduced by Assembly Member Bill Emmerson (R-Hemet).

Workers' Compensation Extended Eligibility for Public Service Workers
AB 2253 expands workers' compensation eligibility for firefighters and law enforcement officers who have developed certain types of cancer that are reasonably linked to their jobs.

Existing law establishes that this presumption be extended for a period of three months for each full year of service the employee worked, not to exceed 60 months beyond their last day of service. The pending legislation will expand that time frame to up to 120 months and will amend Labor Code section 3212.1.

The bill was introduced by Assembly Member Joe Coto (D-San Jose).

Organ / Bone Marrow Donors' Leave and Benefits for Employees of Private Employers
SB 1304 requires private employers to permit employees to take paid leaves of absence for organ and bone marrow donation, similar to provisions existing for California state employees. Under the new law, private employers are prohibited from interfering with employees taking organ or bone marrow donation leave and after the conclusion of the leave of absence must allow them to return to the same job or an equivalent job.

The bill, introduced by Senator Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord), further prohibits retaliation of the employee for taking the leave and provides employees to seek restitution if these rights are violated.

New Procedures Established and Definition Clarified for Cal/OSHA Serious Citations
California employers are legally bound to provide employees a safe workplace. California law has authorized DIR's Division of Occupational Safety and Health, better known as Cal/OSHA, to enforce applicable safety and health regulations and issue citations when investigations reveal that an employer has committed violations of those standards, including serious violations that cause an employee to suffer or potentially suffer, among other things, "serious injury or illness" or "serious physical harm."

AB 2774, introduced by Assembly member Sandre R. Swanson (D-Alameda), amends labor code section 6432 to define serious physical harm and establishes a rebuttable presumption as to when an employer commits a serious violation of these provisions. The bill further establishes new procedures and standards for an investigation when issuing serious citations. (See IR #2010-28, "Cal/OSHA enforcement strengthened with signing of new law")

DIR's mission is to protect the workforce in California, improve working conditions and advance opportunities for profitable employment. For more information on DIR's divisions, programs and boards, go to or visit DIR's small business portal at


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