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Employer Alert: What You Need to Know About AB 1221 and AB 1209

October 26, 2017 | Christine H. Long
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California Law Now Requires Alcohol Servers to Go Through Mandatory Trainings

The sale and consumption of alcohol is for better or for worse an integral part of the hospitality industry.  While the morals of society change, there has been no indication that alcohol consumption, unlike tobacco use, will be banished from hospitality establishments.  Historically, courts and legislature have dealt with alcohol issues by enacting what is commonly referred to as “dram shop” rules.  In today’s technology-oriented society, “dram” may be a confusing term as it is more often associated with computer memory (dynamic random access memory) than with alcohol use.  To avoid such confusion, the word “dram” needs to be understood in its historical context.  In days of old, a drink containing alcohol was generally referred to as a “dram.”  The rules regulating the dram purveyor’s liability were typically referred to as “Dram-shop Acts.”  Many states enacted rules imposing civil liability on liquor sellers when a third person was injured as a result of the alcohol buyer’s intoxication.

California changed course when it enacted California Business and Professions Code section 25602 which provided that while a seller of alcohol could be criminally liable for serving alcohol to an intoxicated individual, they could not be civilly liable “liable to any injured person or the state of that person for injuries inflicted on him as a result of intoxication by the consumer of the alcoholic beverages”.

In 2015, two UC San Diego medical students were killed when a drunk driver went the wrong way on State Route 163. In the wake of a tragic drunk-driving accident, classmates of the victims worked with Assemblywoman Gonzalez Fletcher and the California Medical Association (CMA) to develop legislation that would educate and better equip bartenders and servers with skills that will help identify when a patron has had too much and how to safely intervene.

On October 15, 2017, Governor Brown signed the Responsible Beverage Service Training Program Act requiring individuals who sell or serve alcoholic beverages to undergo responsible beverage service training. The new law is intended to reduce the number of drunk drivers on the road and prevent future tragedies from happening. The law takes effect January 1, 2021, the training will be through an accredited institution, and is to cost no more than $15 per employee for training. Therefore, employers have some time before the new law takes effect.

Further, while this new law doesn’t change existing law regarding liability, it does create a host of new requirements for business owners and employers in regards to training and management. If your business sells or furnishes alcohol it will be imperative that you have the appropriate training in place. Further, while the law doesn’t take effect immediately, it is always good to review your work place practices and make sure they are in line with the changing times. If you have questions, please contact Christine H. Long of Berliner Cohen at Christine.long@berliner.com or (408) 286-5800.

Employers Dodged a Bullet on Proposed Equal Pay Reporting Requirements

The Plaintiffs employment bar is constantly trying to put in place workplace rules and pass laws that create liability for employers. Fortunately, Governor Brown prevented a complicated anti-employer law from being based. On October 15, 2017, Governor Brown vetoed AB 1209, the Gender Pay Gap Transparency Act, that would have required employers with 500 or more employees to collect and report gender pay disparities to the California Secretary of State, which would then publish this information on a public website. The bill would have required employers to collect and report information on differences in pay between male and female exempt employees and between male and female board members.

The California Chamber of Commerce’s analysis on the bill found determined it was not cost effective for the State to incur fees for developing and maintaining a new program and it would have been costly for businesses to take time away from routine operations to collect and submit the information to ensure they are complying with yet another state regulation.

Further, such a bill, if passed would compromise the privacy of employees who may not want their salary information publicly accessible. There is no question, the bill would have provided a website that would be exploited by plaintiffs’ attorneys, exposing businesses to costly and meritless legal actions.

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