Reminder: Tell Your Beloved Employees About Their Noncompetes

by Sonya Goodwin

Next week, in addition to giving heart-shaped chocolates to their employees on Valentine’s Day, employers who have required their current and former (who were employed after January 1, 2022) employees to sign noncompete agreements must provide them with written notice that the noncompete clause or agreement is void. Pursuant to Business & Professions Code Section 16600.1, the notice must be provided no later than February 14, 2024, and must be sent to each current and former employee individually, via mail and email. 

While there are a few exceptions to this requirement, it is best to check with an employment attorney to determine if you are required to provide notice pursuant to this statute.

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 For employment counseling, contact Sonya at

2024 Employment Law Update

by Sonya Goodwin

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  For employment counseling, contact Sonya at

Are Pre-Mediation Calls Worth It?

by Sonya Goodwin

I was talking to a colleague recently, and he told me that he was surprised to receive a request by a mediator for a pre-mediation call on an upcoming mediation. I was just as shocked as he was, but my astonishment was because he then revealed that, in over 40 years of litigating, he had never had a pre-mediation call with a mediator. As an attorney, I always appreciated pre-mediation calls because I felt that it showed that the mediator was truly invested in resolving my case. Now, as a mediator, I always offer pre-mediation calls with the attorneys on both sides. Here are just a few reasons why pre-mediation calls are beneficial:

  • It allows the attorney to inform the mediator of the dynamics of the parties and the attorneys, which then allows the mediator to start the mediation with the appropriate tone.
  • If briefs are provided before the call, it allows the mediator to ask follow-up questions and request additional evidence that might be helpful to resolve the case at the mediation.
  • It allows the attorney to tell the mediator about any issues that the attorney might not want to discuss in front of the client, or inform the mediator of sensitive subjects to be aware of – this is particularly true in highly emotional employment matters.
  • It allows the attorney to emphasize what the mediator should not disclose to the other side during the mediation.
  • It allows the attorney to express possible hurdles to settlement (e.g., party relations, procedural posture, factual context, etc.).
  • It allows the mediator to determine what information has been shared with the other side and, particularly in PAGA and class action mediations, encourage the parties to share information that might impact the valuation of the case.
  • In multi-party mediations, it allows the mediator to ask the attorneys how they want to proceed during the mediation (e.g., co-defendants or co-plaintiffs in separate rooms, global offers/demands vs. separate for each party, etc.).
  • It allows the attorney and mediator to build a rapport before the mediation, especially if the mediator and attorney have not previously worked together, which may help the client build trust in the mediator. 
  • It allows the mediator to discuss defense counsel’s relationship with insurance carriers and any issues regarding insurance that might play a role in settling the case.

Of course, pre-mediation calls are voluntary. However, I encourage every attorney to take advantage of this highly useful tool when it is offered. 

Do you need to mediate an employment dispute? For information regarding mediation availability, contact Candace Yang at

CA Companies May Have To Reimburse More Remote Work Costs

by Sonya Goodwin

Read Sonya Goodwin’s recent article that was published on Law360 about California employers’ obligations to reimburse employees for necessary business expenses when they work remotely. As discussed in the article, this obligation was reiterated in a recent California Court of Appeal decision, Thai v. International Business Machines Corp., which was brought by an employee who was required to work remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic and was not reimbursed by his employer for the necessary costs associated with having to work from home.

Sonya mediates and litigates a wide range of employment disputes including issues related to unreimbursed business expenses. For information regarding mediation availability, contact Candace Yang at For more information regarding litigation, contact Sonya at

Click here to read the full article.

PAGA Plaintiffs Have Standing to Pursue Representative Claims in Court Even if Compelled to Arbitrate Individual Claims

by Sonya Goodwin

Earlier this week, the California Supreme Court issued its much-anticipated decision in Adolph v. Uber Technologies, Inc. In a victory for plaintiffs, the Court held that a plaintiff whose individual Private Attorneys General Act (“PAGA”) claims are compelled to arbitration still has standing to pursue representative PAGA claims in court. 

The fight to send PAGA claims to arbitration has a long history – too long for this summary – but the procedural history of Adolph and the intervening U.S. Supreme Court decision in Viking River Cruises is worth noting here. 

In Adolph, the plaintiff, Erik Adolph, signed an arbitration agreement containing a PAGA waiver, which provided that Adolph would not “bring a representative action on behalf of others under [PAGA] in any court or in arbitration.” After Adolph filed a class action complaint alleging wage and hour claims stemming from his alleged misclassification as an independent contractor, Defendant Uber Technologies, Inc. successfully moved to compel arbitration. Adolph then filed an amended complaint alleging only PAGA claims. Uber filed another motion to compel arbitration on the grounds that Adolph was required to pursue his individual PAGA claims in arbitration. The trial court denied Uber’s motion and, in April 2022, the appellate court upheld that decision on the grounds that PAGA claims were not subject to arbitration and could not be waived under California law.

Just two months later, in June 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Viking River Cruises, Inc. v. Moriana, that, under the Federal Arbitration Act, PAGA claims can be divided into individual claims and representative claims (contrary to what California courts had ruled in the past). Therefore, under a valid arbitration agreement, SCOTUS held a plaintiff’s individual PAGA claims can be compelled to arbitration and, if that happens, a plaintiff would then lack statutory standing to pursue representative claims in court. In a concurring opinion, Justice Sotomayor predicted that California courts would “have the last word” on the standing issue.

One month later, in Adolph, the California Supreme Court took up the issue of whether a plaintiff who has been compelled to arbitrate their individual claims under PAGA maintains statutory standing to pursue representative PAGA claims in court. On July 17, the Court answered in the affirmative: “where a plaintiff has filed a PAGA action comprised of individual and non-individual claims, an order compelling arbitration of individual claims does not strip the plaintiff of standing to litigate non-individual claims in court.” The Court reiterated that there are only two requirements for PAGA standing: the plaintiff must have (1) been employed by the alleged violator, and (2) suffered from one or more Labor Code violations.

Interestingly, the Court suggested that trial courts should stay representative PAGA claims while the individual PAGA claim is being arbitrated. If the arbitrator determines that the named plaintiff is not an aggrieved employee, the named plaintiff will lack standing to pursue any representative PAGA claims in court. But if the arbitrator finds a single Labor Code violation, the decision will cement the named plaintiff’s standing to pursue the representative claims.

What Does it Mean for Employees and Employers?

The most significant takeaway for litigants on both sides of the “v” is that employers cannot use arbitration agreements to avoid representative PAGA actions. But Adolph does not remove every tool from the employer’s toolkit. An employer who believes a plaintiff’s PAGA claim lacks merit can avoid broad PAGA discovery by defeating the individual claim in arbitration. This strategy is not without risk, however. If the employee can prove a single Labor Code violation, the employer will still face the representative action in court in addition to the expense of defending the individual claim in arbitration. Employers should think carefully about the merits of a plaintiff’s allegations before moving to compel a PAGA claim to arbitration. 

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