With new legal requirements facing California employers in 2024, this Friday’s Five article focuses on five initial steps that employers can begin implementing now and other employment law deadlines in 2024:

1. Minimum wage and exempt employees salary threshold: Adjust pay levels for increasing minimum wage and ensure exempt employees are paid minimum threshold salaries to qualify as exempt.

Effective January 1, 2024, the California minimum wage will increase to $16 per hour. Employers should be mindful that higher rates may be in effect in cities (such as San Francisco) or counties (such as Los Angeles) that have enacted their own minimum wage rates, and employers must comply with the highest applicable minimum wage.

To qualify as an exempt employee, the employee must be paid a monthly salary equivalent to no less than two times the state minimum wage for full-time employment. With the state minimum wage increases on January 1, 2024, employers must pay a salary of at least $66,560 per year ($5,546.67 per month).

2. Update reproductive loss leave policy

Employers must update bereavement leave policies to comply with SB 848, which expands employee’s bereavement rights effective January 1, 2024. 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. The law 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.  

3. Review policies to remove noncompetition provisions by January 1, 2024 and provide notices to current and former employees by February 14, 2024.

Effective January 1, 2024, SB 699 voids any contract that restricts an employee from engagement in a lawful profession, trade, or business of any kind, or a noncompetition agreement. This would prohibit an employer from seeking to enforce a noncompetition 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, which is also effective January 1, 2024, makes it unlawful to impose a noncompete clause on employees, unless a narrow exception applies. Employers should review all offer letters, 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.  

4. Fast Food Industry Changes

Fast Food Minimum Wage

AB 1228 applies to national fast-food chains, which are defined as: limited-service restaurants consisting of more than 60 establishments nationally that share a common brand, or that are characterized by standardized options for decor, marketing, packaging, products, and services, and “which are primarily engaged in providing food and beverages for immediate consumption on or off premises where patrons generally order or select items and pay before consuming, with limited or no table service.”  Minimum wage for these restaurants will increase to $20 per hour on April 1, 2024.  Fast food employers need to start taking steps to ensure their payroll companies will incorporate this higher minimum wage

Food Handler Card Costs

Existing law requires food handlers to obtain a food handler card within 30 days of their date of hire and to maintain the card throughout employment. Effective January 1, 2024, SB 476 requires employers to pay the $15 cost of training and examination, and to pay the employee for the training time to obtain certification (which is approximately two and one-half hours).  The law also prohibits employers from conditioning employment on having an existing food handler card.

5. Update Paid Sick Leave, Notices to Employees, and Develop Workplace Violence and Prevention Program.

Update paid sick leave policies and ensure proper tracking of paid sick leave amounts by January 1, 2024.

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.

Update Notice To Employee Under Labor Code section 2810.5 by January 1, 2024.

Labor Code § 2810.5 requires employers to provide a Notice to Employees to all new hires that includes specific information.  Effective January 1, 2024, AB 636 requires employers to include “the existence of a federal or state emergency or disaster declaration applicable to the county or counties where the employee is to be employed, and that was issued within 30 days before the employee’s first day of employment, that may affect their health and safety during their employment.”

Starting on March 15, 2024, employers with employees admitted pursuant to the federal H-2A agricultural visa, employers must include specific information in the 2810.5 notice about their rights as agricultural workers.  The Labor Commissioner is required to publish the updated sample notice by March 1, 2024. 

In addition, employers must also update the 2810.5 notice to include the increased amounts of paid sick leave provided to employees as of January 1, 2024. 

Develop Workplace Violence and Prevention Program by July 1, 2024.

OSHA requires employers to establish and maintain an effective injury prevention program.  SB 553 requires employers to establish and maintain a workplace violence and prevention program. This includes effective training on the workplace violence prevention plan and maintaining records of workplace violence hazard identification, evaluation, and correction, training records, violent incident logs, and workplace incident investigations.  Employers have until July 1, 2024, to establish this program.