The California Legislature would be more credible about its concern for job growth if it didn’t make it so hard for employers to hire workers.

Job growth starts with an employer making an offer to an applicant. Thankfully, aggregate demand and certain competitive advantages in parts of California have strengthened our job base. But in many parts of the state, in many industries, and on the margin, additional burdens on employers make it just that much harder to justify an additional hire.

For example, a bill on the Governor’s desk would prohibit private employers from inquiring about a prospect’s salary history. (And no – public employers would not be so constrained.) This measure invents a problem: that employers use salary history to perpetuate embedded sex discrimination, ignoring that current law already prohibits use of salary history as the sole determinant in hiring. 

In fact, questions about salary history provide useful guidance about the market for the attributes possessed by the prospective employee, helping employers adjust unrealistic expectations about a match between pay and performance expectations.

Worse, this new requirement would open employers to yet another source of frivolous litigation. A simple, even inadvertent, inquiry into an employee’s salary history would open up the employer to a private lawsuit, even if there is not ultimate harm to the job applicant or employee.  (AB 1017 by Assm. Nora Campos.)

Another measure threatening to dampen new employee hiring would prohibit mandatory employment arbitration agreements as a condition of taking a job. Far from being an onerous imposition on workers, these agreements provide a streamlined, effective and fair way to resolve employment disputes. National studies have shown that employment arbitration resolves disputes much quicker than resorting to the overburdened civil court system. The courts have already ensured that arbitrators are fair and neutral, are not limited in remedies, and don’t charge employees any of the costs of arbitration. Indeed, the only winner in banning employment arbitration agreements would be the lawyers who pursue these cases in court. (AB 465 by Assm. Roger Hernandez.)

Finally, a third bill on the Governor’s desk would expand the protected California Family Medical and Parental Leave benefit to much wider range of relatives of the employee or affected family member, incrementally adding a disincentive to hire workers to grow above a 50-employee threshold. (SB 406 by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson).

California workers enjoy the most generous mandatory leave policies of anywhere in the nation, and have some of the strongest worker protections and remedies, including private enforcement of state labor laws. Taken together, they burden the scale an employer must consider when weighing whether it is worth it to hire new workers in California.