Top Ten 2024 Labor and Employment Law Updates
- More Paid Sick Leave
SB 616 expanded California’s existing Paid Sick Leave law, in the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act, as of January 1, 2024, requiring all employers to provide at least five (5) paid sick days or 40 hours per year to employees instead of the three (3) days or 24 hours required in 2023. Employers using the accrual method may still provide paid sick leave at an accrual rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked. However, employees must accrue at least three (3) days by their 90th day of employment and five (5) days by their 200th calendar workday. Further, with the accrual method, employees must be allowed to carry over at least ten (10) days or 80 hours of paid sick leave into the following calendar year. Alternatively, employers may provide the five (5) days or 40 hours of paid sick leave up front in a lump sum each calendar year or 12-month period. Employers using the upfront, lump sum method do not have to allow carry over of paid sick leave. Employers should take time to review their handbooks and policies to ensure that they are updated appropriately.
If you have employees, this new law applies to you. Employers, you must ensure your accrual rate is legally compliant, your policy is up to date, and your records are adjusted to reflect this expansion. Failure to comply with all the requirements puts your company at risk.
- The Defeat of Non-Competes in Employment Contracts
SB 699 prohibited employee non-compete agreements in California due to the chilling effect on employee mobility. All non-compete clauses are now void and unenforceable in California. This bill makes it a civil violation for the employer to enter into a non-compete contract and provides a private right of action to employees, former employees, and prospective employees to get an injunction against the employer or recover actual damages, or both, as well as reasonable attorney fees and costs.
Additionally, AB 1076 required employers to notify current and former employees in writing by February 14, 2024 if they previously signed a non-compete agreement which is now void. In other words, any agreements, contracts, or documents that have ever been issued to current or former employees that contain a non-compete clause are void and require a personal letter or notification to that individual stating the non-compete is void. Failure to notify current or former employees is a violation, constitutes an act of unfair competition, and provides a private right of action.
Note that this new law applies to employment contracts. The three limited statutory exceptions that allow restrictive covenants in the sale or dissolution of corporations, partnerships, and limited liability corporations remain in effect.
Contact our attorneys immediately to determine the best way to provide notice to all required individuals.
- Mandatory Workplace Violence Prevention Plan
Employers are now required to create a workplace violence prevention plan in 2024. SB 553, effective July 1, 2024, required employers to adopt a comprehensive plan that must cover the following topics: how and when to report workplace violence hazards and incidents, corrective measures the employer has implemented, how to seek assistance to prevent or respond to violence, how to assess and evaluate risk factors for workplace violence, strategies to avoid physical harm, and information about the violent incident log.
Employers must have formulated a workplace violence prevention plan, assessed their workplace environment, reviewed the plan with an attorney to ensure legal compliance with the requirements, consulted with security and safety professionals, implemented new safety measures, acquired the necessary equipment and documents, and trained all staff on the new violence prevention plan by July 1, 2024. Failure to meet these requirements and implement these steps is a misdemeanor in specified circumstances.
Employers should contact us to strategize how to create and roll out a compliant Workplace Violence Prevention Plan and assist with training.
- New Reproductive Loss Leave
SB 848 required employers to provide up to five (5) days of unpaid leave for employees following reproductive loss. Under SB 848, a reproductive loss-related event includes a miscarriage, failed adoption, failed surrogacy, stillbirth, or unsuccessful assisted reproduction. This reproductive loss leave must be completed within three (3) months of the triggering event.
If an employee experiences more than one reproductive loss event within a 12-month period, an employer is not required to provide more than 20 days of reproductive loss leave. There is no requirement for an employee to provide documentation to support their request for reproductive loss leave. Employers are required to maintain the confidentiality of any employee who requests this type of leave. This new law makes it unlawful for employers to retaliate against an individual who exercises their right to reproductive loss leave or gives information or testimony about a reproductive loss leave.
Contact our office to make sure your policies and procedures for this and other leaves of absence comply with current California law.
- Minimum Wage Increases
As of January 1, 2024, the minimum wage in California is $16.00 per hour. Also, the minimum exempt salary for California employees increased from $64,480 to $66,560. However, despite the increase in the minimum exempt salary, there are multiple other factors to determine if an employee is or is not exempt.
2024 brings minimum wage increases for different industries. For healthcare workers, SB 525 established five (5) new minimum wage schedules for covered healthcare employees depending on the nature of their work, that will increase annually, beginning June 1, 2024. Additionally, the minimum wage will increase to $20.00 per hour in the fast food industry starting on April 1, 2024.
Call us today to avoid any misclassifications, penalties, or fines.
- Protection of Off-Duty Cannabis Use
Last year, AB 2188 amended California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) effective January 1, 2024, to prohibit adverse employment action based on off-duty marijuana use. In 2024, it will be unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a person in hiring, termination, or during employment based on (1) a person’s use of cannabis off the job and away from the workplace or (2) an employer-required drug screening that has found an employee to have non-psychoactive cannabis metabolites in their hair, blood, urine, or other bodily fluids. While employers can still prohibit employees from using or being impaired by cannabis at work, they cannot prohibit cannabis use off duty.
However, certain applicants and employees are exempt from this law based on their profession or job responsibilities. It is essential that employers seek legal guidance on their current drug test policies, evaluate the job position and duties, and reassess their background check and drug screening procedures to ensure they are compliant with the new law.
- Presumption of Retaliation
SB 497 created a rebuttable presumption of retaliation if an employee is disciplined or discharged within 90 days of certain protected activity, such as reporting wage and hour violations, disclosing information to a government or law enforcement agency, or reporting or attempting to enforce rights pertaining to equal pay. The burden is placed on employers to show other legitimate, non-retaliatory reasons for the adverse employment action. This means that, in 2024, it is essential for employers to document performance issues accurately and discipline employees promptly. This new law increases employers’ potential penalties for retaliation, including a civil penalty of up to $10,000 per employee, per violation.
- Disclosure of Sexual Harassment
SB 791 requires an applicant seeking an academic or administrative position for certain postsecondary schools to disclose to the school any final administrative decision or final judicial decision issued within the previous seven (7) years that concluded the applicant committed sexual harassment. The employer cannot inquire about any final administrative or judicial decision until it has been determined that the applicant meets the minimum employment qualifications.
- Food Handler Card
In California, food handlers have been responsible for obtaining and maintaining their certification. However, SB 475 entirely shifted the burden to employers by requiring them to pay their workers for all costs to obtain a food handler card. The employer must compensate as work hours the time it takes the employee to complete the training and examination, provide a location for the testing, and reimburse testing and other out-of-pocket costs the applicant or employee incurs. The new law makes it unlawful for employers to condition employment on an applicant or employee already having a food handler card. The responsibility is now on the employer to help all employees obtain those cards with little or no out-of-pocket expenses, so employers must be aware of this shift in the law, incur the expense and maintain records documenting each food handler employed by the food facility.
- Employment Rehiring and Retention
Effective January 1, 2024, SB 723 requires employers to offer to “laid-off employees” in certain hospitality and business services, specific written information about job positions that become available for which the laid-off employees are qualified, and to offer positions to those laid-off employees based on a preference system in accordance with specific timelines. “Laid off employees” are defined as any employee who was employed by the employer for six (6) months or more in the 12 months preceding January 1, 2020, and whose most recent separation from active service was due to a reason related to COVID-19 pandemic, including public health directive, government shutdown order, lack of business, a reduction in force, or any other economic, nondisciplinary reason related to the pandemic.
Employers could be liable for a civil penalty of $100 for each employee whose rights under these provisions are violated and an additional sum payable as liquidated damages, in the amount of $500 per employee, for each day the employee’s rights under this section are violated. The daily liquidated damages continue to accrue until the violation is cured. In other words, hospitality and business service employers must review their records, comply with this law and speak with an attorney promptly to determine their obligations under SB 723.
If you have any questions about how these new laws may affect your business or need assistance preparing compliant policies or revising your practices, please contact the attorneys at the Law Office of Karen J. Sloat. We are here to help!
See our Resources page at www.karensloatlaw.com/resources for new hire forms and other governmental forms and pamphlets, conveniently gathered for you to download, use, or complete for all employees.
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