Part of the work of the SBEMP Labor and Employment Law Department includes monitoring new laws and regulations for California employers of all types and sizes.
In the dynamic landscape of 2023 which saw a historic number of bills introduced related to labor and employment issues, the California Legislature passed several new laws that HR managers and business owners/executives should consider for the new year to safeguard their organizations against potential impacts.
The new laws impact a wide range of issues, including new limitations on non-compete agreements, new family caregiver and caste FEHA-protected categories, increased paid sick leave allotment, expanded Cal-WARN application, and more.
SBEMP Attorneys has prepared a succinct yet comprehensive overview of these impactful changes below. So far, the most prevalent challenges arising from the new laws that the firm’s Labor and Employment Law Department attorneys are assisting clients with are increased sick leave (SB 616), reproductive loss leave (SB 848), and marijuana discrimination (SB 700).
NOTE THAT UNLESS OTHERWISE STATED, ALL MEASURES BECAME EFFECTIVE JANUARY 1, 2024.
AB 594 (Maienschein) Labor Code: alternative enforcement Chapter 659: Authorizes public prosecutors to prosecute civil or criminal actions for violations of the Labor Code and enforce labor laws independently, allowing them to recover funds for affected workers and directing civil penalties to the state’s General Fund.
AB 1076 (Bauer-Khan) Contracts in restraint of trade: noncompete agreements Chapter 828: Codifies existing case law, broadly construing Business & Profession Code section 16600’s prohibition of noncompete agreements in an employment context, regardless of how narrowly tailored they are, and extending prohibition to contracts where the restrained person is not a party. Also deems it unlawful to include noncompete clauses in employment contracts that don’t meet specific exceptions. Employers are required to notify current and former employees who were employed on or after January 1, 2022, in writing by February 14, 2024, that any noncompete clause or agreement previously signed by the employees is void.
AB 1355 (Valencia) Employment: benefits: electronic notice and documents: Allows employers to send notifications and documents related to employment benefits electronically, such as through email, to employees who opt in to receive them in writing or electronically.
SB 428 (Blakespear) Temporary restraining orders and protective orders: employee harassment Chapter 286 : Expands existing law to allow employers to seek temporary restraining orders and injunctions on behalf of employees who have suffered harassment, in addition to unlawful violence or threats of violence. Employers Effective Date: January 1, 2025
SB 497 (Smallwood Cuevas) Protected employee conduct Chapter 612: Strengthens protections for employees in California by establishing a rebuttable presumption of retaliation if an employer subjects an employee to an adverse employment action within 90 days of the employee’s engagement in protected activities, such as disclosing information about law violations or discussing wages. Also increases employer liability by imposing a civil penalty of up to $10,000 per employee for violations of these protections, with the penalty awarded to the affected employee.
SB 553 (Cortese) Occupational safety: workplace violence: restraining orders and workplace violence prevention plan Chapter 289: Establishes new workplace violence prevention plan requirements, mandating employers to maintain and implement such plans, conduct training, and keep records of incidents. Also allows collective bargaining representatives of employees to seek restraining orders and workplace violence prevention measures on behalf of workers who have experienced unlawful violence or threats of violence at the workplace. Effective Date: July 1, 2024
SB 616 (Gonzalez) Sick days: paid sick days accrual and use: Increases the number of paid sick days from the existing 24 hours or 3 days to 40 hours or 5 days. SB 699 (Caballero) Contracts in restraint of trade Chapter 157 Declares that any noncompete agreement void under current California law cannot be enforced, regardless of where or when it was signed. Prohibits California employers from entering such contracts with their employees, imposes civil penalties on violating employers, and allows affected individuals to seek injunctive relief, actual damages, attorney’s fees, and costs for violations.
SB 723 (Durazo) Employment: rehiring and retention: displaced workers. Chapter 719: Extends the provisions of existing law that require certain employers to offer job positions to laid-off employees who were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. This extension delays the repeal date for these provisions, originally set for December 31, 2024, to the new date of December 31, 2025. SB 700 (Bradford) Employment discrimination: cannabis use. Chapter 408 Expands existing California law to make it illegal for employers to inquire about an applicant’s prior cannabis use when considering employment.
SB 848 (Rubio) Employment: leave for reproductive loss Chapter 724: Requires employers to provide employees with leave to tend to a reproductive loss event, including failed adoption, failed surrogacy, miscarriage, stillbirth, and unsuccessful assisted reproduction.
Minimum Wage Laws: As of January 1, 2024, California’s minimum wage is $16.00/hr. for all employers. For some industries, such as fast food restaurants (effective April 1, 2024) and healthcare facilities (effective June 1, 2024) the minimum wage has increased to amounts ranging from $18.00/hr. to $24.00/hr. Some cities and counties have higher minimum wages than the state’s rate. Here is a list of City and County minimum wages in California maintained by UC Berkeley.