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Governor Brown Signs and Vetoes Important Employment Bills

Over the weekend, Governor Jerry Brown capped off this year’s legislative session by signing or vetoing the remaining bills on his desk.  The following is a brief summary of the most notable labor and employment related bills from the past session relevant to public agencies:

Bills Signed By Governor

AB 537 (Bonta) makes two changes to the Meyers Milias Brown Act (MMBA).  First, the bill requires that if a tentative agreement is reached by the parties, the governing body must conduct a vote to accept or reject the agreement within 30 days of the date it is first considered.  Second, the bill requires that contractual arbitration be subject to the California Arbitration Act.

AB 218 (Dickinson), which takes effect July 1, 2014, requires that for most jobs, public employers conclude that a job applicant meets the minimum qualifications for the position before they ask about the person’s conviction history.  The bottom line result of this legislation is that a public employer may not ask an applicant to disclose on an initial application if the applicant has been convicted of a felony.  Employers will have to wait until later in the process to inquire about a potential candidate’s criminal history.  (Please note that jobs that require a conviction background check, such as police officers, are exempt.)

AB 373 (Mullin) extends certain long-term-care benefits to the domestic partners and adult children of public employees.

AB 1181 (Gray) requires public agency employers to provide “reasonable time off, without loss of compensation or other benefits” to employees appearing as a designated representative of an employer organization for bargaining, or time spent testifying at PERB or personnel or merit commission hearings.

SB 313 (De Léon) amends the Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights Act to prohibit punitive action against a public safety officer (including denial of promotion) because the officer’s name appears on a “Brady list.”

Bills Vetoed by Governor

AB 729 (Hernández) would have established a “union agent-represented worker” evidentiary privilege, similar to the privilege that exists for attorney-client and doctor-patient.  If adopted, this new privilege would have meant a union agent and represented employee would have the privilege to refuse to disclose any confidential communications between them while the union agent was acting in his or her representative capacity.  In his veto message, the Governor wrote: “I don’t believe it is appropriate to put communications with a union agent on equal footing with communications with one’s spouse, priest, physician or attorney.  Moreover, this bill could compromise the ability of employers to conduct investigations into workplace safety, harassment and other allegations.”

AB 855 (Brown) would have required the reinstatement of a State employee if he or she was terminated for being absent (AWOL) for five days.  In his veto message, Governor Brown wrote: “This bill seeks to remedy the rare circumstance when the state misapplies the absent without leave statute, forcing both the state and the employee to go to court to resolve the dispute. . . .  In these cases, both the state and the employee incur both delay and significant expenses. This does not make sense.”

AB 1263 (Pérez) would have allowed Medi-Cal interpreters to unionize, under the jurisdiction of the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB).