New year brings new social justice-related laws to California

In response to the Me Too movement, California has several new laws relating to sexual harassment. A pair of new laws prevent and invalidate settlement agreements that restrict the disclosure of information in sexual harassment cases. Likewise, employers with five or more employees must provide two hours of sexual harassment prevention training to all supervisory employees and at least one hour to other employees.

The state is also requiring public companies to place women on their boards of directors. Public California companies must have at least one woman on their board of directors by the end of 2019. By 2021, a company must have at least two female board members if it has at least five directors, or three women if it has six or more directors.

Criminal justice reform is also occurring in California. Most notably, starting in October, the state will eliminate its cash bail system and replace it with one in which defendants’ custody is determined based on assessments of their threat to public safety and likelihood to skip court.

Additionally, there are new police transparency laws. Records kept in investigations into use-of-force, sexual assault and lying while on duty will become public records. Likewise, as of July 1, law enforcement in California will have to release recordings from body cameras within 45 days of an incident, including if officers fire shots or use force to cause death or great bodily harm.

A host of new gun laws are also taking effect. Individuals must now be 21 in order to purchase legal firearms. Previously, the age requirement was 18, with the exception of handguns, for which one had to be 21 in order to purchase. There are exemptions from the new law for military members, law enforcement and individuals who have hunting licenses.

California also now has a lifetime ban on gun ownership for certain people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence. Additionally, concealed carry now requires eight hours of training and live-fire exercises.

Another new state law applies to the humane treatment of animals. Pet stores are now banned from selling dogs, cats and rabbits unless they were acquired from an animal shelter, rescue or adoption organization.

On a lighter note, anyone under 18 must now wear a helmet when riding a bicycle, scooter, skateboard or skates, otherwise they will received a citation. 

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