New Laws in California, Louisiana and Texas Effective January 1, 2016

California School Activities Leave Expansion Starts January 1 California’s law allowing unpaid time off for employees to participate in their children’s school or daycare activities will be expanded effective January 1. Current law requires employers with 25 or more employees to provide unpaid leave to employees who are a parent, guardian, or grandparent with custody of one or more children who are in kindergarten or grades 1 through 12 or are attending a licensed daycare facility. Employers must provide employees up to 40 hours of unpaid leave each year, not to exceed eight hours in a calendar month, to participate in school or daycare activities. The new law expands the reasons for which employees can take leave to include (1) to find or enroll or reenroll their child in a school or with a licensed childcare provider and (2) to address a childcare provider or school emergency. “Childcare provider or school emergency” is broadly defined to mean that an employee’s child can’t remain in school or with a childcare provider because of one of the following reasons:
  1. The school or childcare provider has requested that the child be picked up or has an attendance policy, excluding planned holidays, that prohibits the child from attending or requires the child to be picked up;
  2. Behavioral or discipline problems;
  3. The closure or unexpected unavailability of the school or childcare provider, excluding planned holidays; or
  4. A natural disaster such as a fire, earthquake, or flood.
The new law also expands time-off protections to employees who are stepparents, are foster parents, or stand in loco parentis (in place of a parent). In addition, the bill eliminates the requirement that grandparents have custody to be covered. Further, the bill replaces the term licensed “child daycare facility” with the broader term licensed “childcare provider.” New Orleans Living Wage Ordinance Takes Effect January 1 Employers doing business with the city of New Orleans must pay employees at least $10.10 per hour and provide them at least seven days of paid leave per year after the city’s living wage law takes effect January 1. The ordinance applies to city contractors, subcontractors, and grant recipients. A “contractor” is covered “if it enters into one or more city contracts where the annual value of payments under all such city contracts is (or is projected to be) $25,000 or more.” A “subcontractor” is covered during the time it is associated with a covered contractor or grant recipient. A “grant recipient,” also termed a “beneficiary,” is any person or entity that receives more than $100,000 in municipal funds “for the purpose of promoting economic development, community development, job retention, or job growth.” The ordinance also covers “subtenants,” which are defined as “any tenant or leaseholder of a [beneficiary] that uses or occupies property that is the subject of [city financial assistance]” for the time it is associated with a beneficiary. The ordinance will require covered employers to pay employees at least $10.10 per hour (the current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour) for all work related to a city contract or any work that takes place on property that receives municipal funding. If the employer “cannot determine which of its employees perform work relating to a city contract, all of its employees” must be paid $10.10 per hour. A violation of the ordinance is a civil infraction punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000 plus all costs of the action. Each day a violation occurs will constitute a separate violation. The ordinance also prohibits retaliation. In addition, the ordinance provides employees a private claim. An employee may sue not only for the difference in pay he should have received but also for injunctive relief to prohibit future violations.  Texas Employers Need to be Ready for New Open Carry Law A new Texas law allowing individuals with a concealed handgun license to openly carry a gun in a shoulder or hip holster takes effect January 1, but many employers will find they are able to restrict the open carrying of handguns if they so desire. The new law allows individuals to openly carry handguns in public places, but private places may prohibit handguns. Employers that are private businesses can create and enforce handbook policies that prohibit the carrying (concealed or open) of guns into their workplace. Furthermore, regarding public employers, the law prohibits open carrying in schools, school parking lots, or locations where school events are being held; amusement parks; religious institutions; and meetings of any government entity. However, employees may continue to store firearms and ammunition in locked, privately owned vehicles in employer parking lots. Employers with policies prohibiting employees, clients, and visitors from carrying weapons on their premises should review the requirements of Texas Penal Code Sections 30.06 and 30.07 and post the signs required by the sections. The provisions make it an offense for a licensed individual to openly carry or take a concealed handgun onto company premises, but they require that specific notices be posted at the facility. Employers could prohibit open carrying and allow concealed carrying by posting only the notice required by Section 30.07. If an employer doesn’t own the property it uses, it would be a good idea to get permission to prohibit the carrying of weapons onto the premises from the owner of the property. The language of Sections 30.06 and 30.07 applies to property owners and entities with apparent authority to act on behalf of property owners. Arguably, employers that lease a facility have apparent authority. Alternatively, employers may have a clause in their lease agreement that allows them to prohibit weapons (that requirement is a carryover from the old prohibition language). However, obtaining permission from the property owner certainly won’t hurt an employer’s position. Since the new open carry law was approved, Texas has also passed Senate Bill 11, which allows concealed handguns to be carried into classrooms, dormitories, and other buildings at public and private universities. The law takes effect August 1, 2016. Private universities have the option to opt out of the law, and many schools such as Rice University and Texas Christian University have done so. Most public universities are researching and developing guidelines on how to best implement the law. The law does not allow open carrying on campuses, and students must still be 21 to receive their license to carry. by Cathleen S. Yonahara, P.J. Kee, and Laurianne Balkum We hope this information is valuable to you. If you have any questions regarding this alert, please do not hesitate to contact us by phone or email.