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New California Employment Laws for 2024

Highlights


  • California increased paid sick leave for employees.
  • The state minimum wage will increase to $16 per hour, with an increase to $20 for fast food workers.
  • Non-compete agreements have been rendered void in California and are unenforceable.
  • New laws offer guidance regarding cannabis use for workers when they are off duty and offsite.

New California Employment Laws for 2024

By Randy A. Lopez

Happy New Year!  Put down the champagne and sweep up the confetti because it’s that time of year again. California passed many new employment laws that will impact workplace in 2024 and beyond. Below is a brief explanation of some of the new laws. If you were unaware of these new laws, please plan accordingly by updating your employee handbooks and taking the appropriate corrective actions. These new laws go into effect on January 1, 2024, unless otherwise noted.

Paid Sick Leave Increase (Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act)

Starting on January 1, 2024, employees will now be entitled to five (5) days or forty (40) hours of paid sick leave (previously three days or twenty-four hours).

Employers may frontload or provide for accrual of paid sick leave.  For accrual, employers may still allow paid sick leave to accrue at a rate of one (1) hour for every thirty (30) hours worked.  However, employees must be able to accrue at least forty (40) hours of paid sick leave by their 200th day of employment.

Usage Cap: Increase to forty (40) hours from twenty-four (24) hours.

Accrual Cap: Increase in accrual cap to eighty (80) hours or ten (10) days, from the previous forty-eight (48) hours or six (6) days.

Compliance with this new law is subject to Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) class action lawsuits.  As a result, employers are strongly encouraged to seek guidance to make the required updates to their paid sick leave policy.

Minimum Wage Increase

As of January 1, 2024, the state minimum wage will increase to $16 an hour. Going forward, every January, the minimum wage will be adjusted for inflation. This also means that exempt employees in California must be paid a minimum annual salary of $66,560.

Please remember that various cities and counties throughout the State of California have enacted their own “living wage ordinances”, that sometimes include Paid Sick Leave requirements. Please be cognizant of these increases depending on your location or the location of your employees to ensure that the correct minimum wage is being paid.

Non-Compete Agreements Void (SB 699 and AB1076)

Most employers are aware that noncompete agreements in California are largely unenforceable. With these new laws (SB 699 and AB 1076), employers are prohibited from entering into or attempting to enforce noncompete agreements with employees. Under SB 699, noncompete agreements are void in California regardless of where the employee worked when the employee entered into the agreement or where the employee signed the agreement.

Additionally, the new law affirmatively prohibits employers from entering into noncompetition agreements or from attempting to enforce a noncompetition agreement. Compliance with this new law is also subject to PAGA and employees can obtain injunctive relief, actual damages, and an award of attorneys’ fees if they prevail in a private action. 

Under AB 1076, employers who previously required their employees to sign noncompete agreements are required to notify current and former employees (employed after January 1, 2022) in writing by February 14, 2024, that any noncompete agreements they may have signed are void and unenforceable.

Reproductive Leave Loss for Employees

Eligible employees are allowed to take up to five (5) days of unpaid leave following a reproductive loss event. A “reproductive loss event” is defined as a failed adoption, failed surrogacy, miscarriage, stillbirth, or an unsuccessful assisted reproduction. The leave must be taken within three (3) months of the reproductive loss event and does not have to be taken consecutively.

This new law applies to employers with at least five (5) employees and the employee must be employed for at least thirty (30) days prior to the commencement of leave. Additionally, employers must maintain confidentiality relating to reproductive loss leave.

Cannabis Use Discrimination (from 2023)

Beginning January 1, 2024, employers cannot discriminate against employees or applicants based on their off duty (off the job and away from workplace) use of cannabis. 

The law also prohibits discrimination based on an employer-required drug screening test that detects nonpsychoactive cannabis metabolites in an employee’s or applicant’s hair, blood, urine, or other bodily fluids. However, an employer can still refuse to hire someone based on a valid preemployment drug screening that looks only for psychoactive cannabis metabolites.

The law does not apply to those employed in building and construction trades and will not apply to applicants or employees hired for positions that require a federal government background investigation or security clearance.

The new law does not preempt state or federal laws requiring applicants or employees to be tested for controlled substances, including laws governing federal contractors or employers receiving federal funding or federal licensing-related benefits. This also does not affect the rights or obligations of an employer to maintain a drug-and-alcohol-free workplace, or any other federal law or regulation.

Expansion of California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act – Prior Cannabis Use

The new law protects applicants from discrimination based on prior cannabis use (with some exceptions).  Employers are prevented from requesting information from an applicant that relates to the applicant’s prior use of cannabis.

Additionally, if an employer gathers criminal history information that includes an applicant’s prior cannabis use, employers are not allowed to use such information. There are exceptions for when employers are permitted to consider or inquire about that information under state or federal law.

Retaliation and Harassment

California also expanded its retaliation protections. Under current law, employers cannot discriminate or retaliate against employees for engaging in certain protected activities, such as filing a complaint with the California Labor Commissioner for a wage-and-hour violation or serving as a whistleblower. Under SB 497, the new law adds a rebuttable presumption in favor of an employee’s claim if an employer takes adverse against the employee within 90 days of the employee’s protected action. In other words, the law will presume the employer retaliated against the employee if they take an adverse action within 90 days of the employee’s protected activity, shifting the burden to the employer to rebut that presumption with sufficient evidence.  

Workplace Violence Prevention Program

Beginning July 1, 2024, nearly all employers will be required to adopt general industry workplace violence safety requirements under the jurisdiction of the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA).  Under the new law, covered employers have many new obligations, including developing and implementing a comprehensive workplace violence prevention plan (“WVPP”) either as part of their injury and illness prevention program (“IIPP”) or as a separate document. The law requires employers to comprehensively address 13 different topics in their WVPP.

The new law imposes specific requirements, such as:

  • Maintaining a violence incident log where incidents or threats are recorded;
  • Providing training to all employees; and
  • Maintaining records related to a workplace violence prevention plan.

Industry Specific Changes

Increased Minimum Wage for Health Care Workers.  The minimum wage increases begin on June 1, 2024, for certain health care employees depending on the nature of the employer. The law applies to 20 types of health facilities, including hospitals, clinics, skilled nursing facilities, psychiatric and mental health facilities, home health agencies, residential care, and many others.

Fast Food Minimum Wage Increase to $20 per hour.  Starting April 1, 2024, minimum wage for fast food restaurant employees will increase to $20 per hour. This minimum wage will increase annually through 2029.

Food Handler Cards.  Currently, certain workers are required to obtain a food handler card within 30 days of their hire date and maintain this card throughout their employment. The new law requires employers to cover any cost associated with obtaining a food handler card; including payment for employees’ time required to complete training, the cost of testing and anything required for completion of the program.

Reminders

Personnel File Retention.  As of last year, the law requires retention of personnel files for four (4) years from creation, and four (4) years from the date of termination or the non-hiring of an applicant.

Sexual Harassment Prevention Training.  Reminder for employers to be compliant with sexual harassment prevention training for their employees and managers.  Training is required every two (2) years for employees: one (1) hour for non-managerial, and two (2) hours for managers/supervisors.  New hires should receive training within the first six (6) months of employment.  Additionally, please ensure that you have a compliant harassment, discrimination, and sexual harassment prevention, reporting and investigation policy.

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We know this is a lot of new information to digest.  If you have any questions relating to these new laws or any other issues, please do not hesitate to contact either Toni Y. Long or Randy A. Lopez directly. 

DISCLAIMER: The information contained above is solely provided for informational purposes and does not constitute legal advice.  All readers should consult with legal counsel for additional and/or current information, and before acting on any of the information presented in this post.