In the ever-evolving landscape of California’s labor and employment regulations, the upcoming year promises to bring a fresh set of challenges for employers throughout the state. As we begin to close 2023, it’s imperative for businesses to familiarize themselves with the newest legal mandates and adjustments set to shape the way they operate, hire, and manage their workforce in 2024. This article delves into the key employment laws introduced for the forthcoming year, offering insights to ensure compliance and build a collaborative workplace.
AB 1228: Fast Food Franchisor Responsibility Act
This bill repealed the FAST Act and implemented new regulations of the fast-food industry in California. Notably, this bill increases the minimum wage to $20 per hour as of April 1, 2024, and establishes the Fast Food Council. For details on how this Act will affect you, take a look at our detailed post here.
Assembly Bill 594: Public prosecution for wage theft/labor code violations
Public prosecutors (meaning, the Attorney General, a district attorney, a city attorney, a county counsel, or any other city or county prosecutor) can enforce labor code violations by pursuing civil or criminal actions for certain labor code violations. These labor code violations include unpaid minimum wage, unpaid overtime, failure to provide meal breaks, and failure to provide rest breaks. Public prosecutors may also enforce these labor code sections independently. Any money recovered until this code will go to the affected workers, and all civil penalties recovered under this section will be paid to the General Fund of California. The Plaintiff may also be entitled to reasonable attorney fees. It is important for employers to note that this is in addition and separate from the Labor Commissioners right to investigate and hear employee complaints, and the Labor Workforce and Development Agency’s rights under PAGA.
Assembly Bill 1076 and Senate Bill 699: Noncompete Agreements and Clauses
AB 1076 and SB 699 codifies existing law. SB 699 voids any contract that restricts an employee from engagement in a lawful profession, trade, or business of any kind, or a noncompete agreement. This would prohibit an employer from seeking to enforce a noncompete agreement, regardless of where or when the contract was signed. This restriction applies even if the contract was signed outside of California, or if the employment was maintained outside of California. SB 699 also authorizes an employee, former employee, or prospective employee to bring an action seeking injunctive relief, or for the recovery of actual damages, and allows the prevailing employee, former employee, or prospective employee to recover reasonably attorney’s fees and costs.
Similarly, AB 1076, makes it unlawful to impose a noncompete clause on employees, unless a narrow exception applies. Employers should review all of their offer letter, employment agreements, or other policies distributed to employees to determine if there are any noncompete clauses with employees. If there are such policies, employers are required to notify all current and former employees that were employed after January 1, 2022, that any noncompete agreement or similar clause within their agreement is void, unless it falls within one of the exceptions. This notice must be made by February 14, 2023, and be made in a written, individualized communication delivered to the last known address and email address.
Senate Bill 616: Paid Sick Leave Expansion
Currently, employers are required to provide employees with three days, or 24 hours, of paid sick leave. Beginning January 1, 2024, employers will be required to provide five days, or 40 hours. Employers will be able to control the amount used per year at five days or 40 hours per year and cap accrual at 10 days or 80 hours. Many California cities, including West Hollywood, have established local paid sick leave ordinances that provide more leave than required under California law. Employers should be sure to review local ordinances to determine which leave applies.
Senate Bill 723: Re-Hiring Rights for Laid-Off Employees
Currently, employers in the hospitality and business service provider industries are required to offer reemployment to qualified former employees as long as the former employees were (1) employed for at least 6 months in the year before January 1, 2020, and (2) laid off for a reason related to the pandemic. This is now expanded to apply to former employees who were employed for at least 6 months and laid off on or after March 4, 2020. Additionally, any separation due to a lack of business, reduction in force, or other economic, nondisciplinary reason is presumably a reason related to COVID-19. This law sunsets on December 31, 2025.
Senate Bill 497: Presumption of Retaliation
Employers are prohibited from discriminating, retaliating, or taking any adverse employment action against an employee or applicant because they engaged in protected conduct. Now, there is a rebuttable presumption of retaliation if the employer disciplines or takes adverse action against an employee within 90 days of that employee engaging in protected conduct. This means that simply by taking that action, the Plaintiff will be able to establish its prima facie case. It will be up to the employer to dispute this and establish that it did not discriminate, retaliate, or take an adverse employment action because the employee or applicant engaged in protected conduct.
Senate Bill 848: Reproductive Loss Leave
This bill expands employee’s bereavement rights. Employers must provide employees with five days leave for a “reproductive loss event.” A “reproductive loss event” is defined to include failed adoption, failed surrogacy, miscarriage, stillbirth, or an unsuccessful assisted reproduction. This bill applies to private employers with five or more employees, all public employers, and apply to employees that have worked for the employer for at least 30 days. As with the bereavement leave requirements, this leave may be unpaid; however, the employee can use other accrued leave. Employees must take the leave within 3 months of the reproductive loss event, and an employer would not be required to provide more than 20 days in a 12-month period.
Senate Bill 428: Workplace Restraining Orders
Employers are already authorized to seek a temporary restraining order on behalf of an employee who has suffered an unlawful violence or a credible threat of violence if it can reasonably be carried out in the workplace. Now, employers may also seek a temporary restraining order on behalf of employees who have suffered harassment. The employer must allow the employee the opportunity to decline being named in the order before filing the petition. The bill includes a carve out to prevent a temporary restraining order against speech or activities that are protected by the NLRB. This bill goes into effect on January 1, 2025.
Senate Bill 553: Workplace Violence Prevention
The California Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1973 already requires employers to establish and maintain an effective injury prevention program. Now, employers will be required to establish and maintain a workplace violation prevention program. Employers must provide effective training to employees on the workplace violence prevention plan. In addition to the prevention program, employers must maintain records of workplace violence hazard identification, evaluation, and correction, training records, violent incident logs, and workplace incident investigation records. Employers have until July 1, 2024, to establish this program.
Senate Bill 700: Marijuana Protections
Employers may no longer ask an applicant about their prior marijuana use. This bill clarifies that the law against discrimination on the basis of marijuana includes information the employer obtained about prior marijuana use from the applicant’s or employee’s criminal history. Our detailed article about SB 700 can be found here.
Senate Bill 525: Healthcare Workers Minimum Wage
This bill creates a series of minimum wage requirements varying by type of healthcare employer with yearly increases. Additionally, covered health care employees that are paid on a salary basis must earn a monthly salary equal to no less than 150% of the health care minimum wage or 200% of the applicable minimum wage, whichever is greater, for full-time employment, to qualify as exempt from payment of minimum wage and overtime.
Learn more during our webinar
Join our experts on Thursday, October 26, 2023, as we dig deeper into these new laws and how they may affect you. Register for our free webinar here: https://us06web.zoom.us/webinar/register/6316951613202/WN_RDLUQU6mSvKBzkCfB9eU-A.