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New Calif. Laws Try To Help Employees, Immigrants

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(credit: AP)

(credit: AP)

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — As California’s economy recovers, the Democrats who control the state Legislature put a priority on assisting more vulnerable workers with some of the laws taking effect in the new year.

Low-income workers, immigrants in the country illegally, domestic caregivers and farm laborers will benefit from bills lawmakers passed in 2013. Also among the hundreds of new laws are ones that will give rights and protections to transgender students, same-sex couples, women seeking abortions, the homeless, prison inmates who committed their crimes as juveniles and celebrities with young children.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed 805 bills into law in 2013, while vetoing 96.

The Democratic leaders of the Assembly and Senate said one of their goals was to assist workers still reeling from the recession. They did so, often over the objections of Republicans who said the laws will harm the state’s business climate.

Steve Smith, a spokesman for the California Labor Federation, called 2013 “a banner year for workers” in the state and said the benefits of the legislation would be felt immediately.

“California has really established itself as a national leader in terms of protecting the rights of workers, and that’s exactly where we should be, in our view,” he said.

In the most far-reaching move, minimum-wage earners will be paid $9 an hour starting July 1, the first of two dollar-an-hour boosts that will push the base wage to $10 by 2016, giving the state one of the nation’s highest rates.

Other benefits and protections take effect Jan. 1.

Domestic workers now must be paid time-and-a-half if they work more than nine hours in a day or more than 45 hours in a week, although baby sitters are exempt from the mandate. California follows Hawaii and New York in offering certain protections to in-home caregivers.

Another law requires that workers in industries such as agriculture and landscaping get rest breaks during hot weather.

Immigrants in the country illegally receive several new rights and protections.

It is a crime for employers to report workers to immigration authorities in retaliation for work-related complaints and for anyone to extort money from those in the country illegally by threatening to report their legal status.

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