As we start the new year, California employers should be aware of the new employment laws that went into effect on January 1, 2024. This is also a good time for employers to update their Employee Handbooks to ensure they are in compliance with these new laws. Here is a summary of some of the new or updated laws:
Cannabis Use Added as a Protected Category (AB 2188, SB 700)
AB 2188 (which was signed into law in 2022, but goes into effect January 1, 2024) expands the FEHA to make it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against applicants or employees in hiring, termination, or any term or condition of employment, or to otherwise penalize an individual for (1) off-duty cannabis use outside the workplace, or (2) the results of an employer-required drug test that comes back positive for nonpsychoactive cannabis metabolites in the individual’s hair, blood, urine, or other bodily fluids. This does not impact an employer’s policy prohibiting the use or possession of cannabis on the job, or prohibiting employees from being under the influence of drugs or alcohol while at work.
SB 700 also expands the FEHA to protect applicants from discrimination for prior cannabis use and prohibits employers from asking applicants information relating to their prior use of cannabis.
Expansion of Paid Sick Leave Law (SB 616)
SB 616 expands California’s existing paid sick leave law to require employers to provide 5 days/40 hours of paid sick leave (the previous law required 3 days/24 hours). While employers may still use the “frontload” method to provide the entire amount of paid sick leave upfront, for those employers who use the accrual method, employees must be able to accrue 40 hours by their 200th day of employment. It is important to note that employees can still accrue at the rate of 1 hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked. Annual usage may be limited to 40 hours (instead of the previous 24 hours), and the total accrual may be capped at the greater of 10 days/80 hours (formerly 6 days/48 hours).
Reproductive Loss Leave (SB 848)
SB 848 permits eligible employees to take up to 5 days of unpaid leave after a “reproductive loss event,” which is defined under the law as a failed adoption, failed surrogacy, miscarriage, stillbirth, or an unsuccessful assisted reproduction. The leave must be taken within 3 months of the reproductive loss event, and does not need to be taken consecutively. This new law applies to employers with at least 5 employees, and an employee must be employed at least 30 days prior to the start of the leave.
Prohibition of Noncompete Agreements (SB 699, AB 1076)
Although noncompete agreements have been, for the most part, unenforceable for some time in California, under SB 699, employers are prohibited from entering into or attempting to enforce noncompete agreements with employees no matter where the employee worked when the agreement was entered into or where the employee signed the agreement. Additionally, AB 1076 requires all employers who previously required employees (current and former if employed after January 1, 2022) to sign noncompete agreements to inform those employees, in writing, by February 14, 2024, that the noncompete agreements previously signed are void. A violation of the notice provision constitutes an act of unfair competition.
Workplace Violence Prevention Plan (SB 553)
Effective July 1, 2024, SB 553 will require employers to create a written workplace violence prevention plan. As part of the plan, employers must, among other things, train all employees regarding workplace violence prevention; maintain records related to the plan; record incidents or threats in an incident log; and create procedures to accept and respond to reports of workplace violence, and how to prevent retaliation against employees who report workplace violence. There are some exceptions to this new law for employers with fewer than 20 employees in certain industries. If you have fewer than 20 employees, you should seek legal advice to determine what your obligations are under this law.
Increased California Minimum Wage
Effective January 1, 2024, the state minimum wage will increase to $16/hour for all employers regardless of number of employees. This means that the salary basis test for most salaried exempt positions will increase to a minimum of $66,560. Note that many local counties and cities, including Los Angeles (both county and city), have local minimum wages that are higher than the state minimum wage. Employers must use the higher applicable rate in their jurisdiction.
If you have any questions, please contact Sonya Goodwin. Sonya provides mediation services, advice, and counsel to employers and litigates all types of employment matters. For Sonya’s mediation availability, contact Candace Yang at firstname.lastname@example.org. For employment counseling, contact Sonya at email@example.com.