As we step into a new year, California’s employers are once again poised to adapt to a fresh set of workplace laws. These laws, finalized during the fall’s legislative session, are a regular occurrence in the state’s dynamic legal landscape. 2023 brings an unusually heavy legislative load, with lawmakers deliberating over 2,700 bills, a number not seen in nearly two decades. This legislative flurry included a series of high-profile workplace-related proposals, capturing the attention of employers statewide.
Governor Newsom played a pivotal role in shaping these changes, having until October 14 to sign or veto the bills on his desk. The outcomes of these decisions have now clarified the new compliance obligations that employers will soon need to navigate. Interestingly, the Governor’s decisions included several unexpected vetoes, providing a mixed bag of relief and future uncertainty for employers. These vetoes suggest a potential for the resurgence of some of these proposals in upcoming legislative sessions. It’s crucial for employers to stay informed about both the approved bills and those vetoed, as the latter may re-emerge in the future.
10 New Laws Shaping Employer Compliance
Expansion of Paid Sick Leave Under SB 616
The State of California, in an effort to align more closely with progressive cities that have implemented their own Paid Sick Leave ordinances, enacted SB 616. This significant legislation, signed on October 4 by Governor Newsom, amends the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014. Its implications are far-reaching, covering nearly all employees who work in California for 30 or more days within a year. This broad coverage means that a vast array of businesses and industries must adapt to these changes. Among other things, the law enhances the reasons for which paid sick leave can be used, potentially changes the accrual and use limits, and may modify carryover provisions. It’s a complex legal landscape that employers must navigate carefully to ensure compliance.
Raising Minimum Wage for Health Care Workers with SB 525
Signed on October 13, this law is a game-changer for the healthcare sector in California. It mandates a significant increase in the minimum wage for a wide spectrum of healthcare employees, both hourly and salaried. This increase is expected to affect a multitude of roles within the healthcare industry, from administrative staff to direct care providers. Moreover, it introduces a private right of action, empowering employees to take legal steps to enforce these minimum wage requirements. Employers in the healthcare sector must be prepared for this increase in labor costs and ensure their payroll systems are updated accordingly.
New Challenges to Noncompetes with SB 699
This law, enacted on September 1, represents a fundamental shift in the landscape of noncompete agreements in California. It expressly prohibits employers from entering into, and attempting to enforce, noncompetes that are void under state law. This includes agreements executed in other states or situations where the work was performed in a different state. The law aims to ensure that California employees are not unfairly restricted in their employment mobility due to noncompete clauses that would not stand under California law.
Noncompete Notice Requirements Under AB 1076
Further tightening the reins on noncompete agreements, AB 1076, signed on October 13, introduces a new notification requirement for employers. This mandate compels employers to inform current and former employees about any noncompete clauses in their employment agreements that are unlawful. This requirement adds an administrative layer to the employer’s responsibilities and necessitates a thorough review and possibly restructuring of existing employment agreements.
Leave for Reproductive Loss under SB 848
Enacted on October 10, SB 848 is a pioneering piece of legislation that addresses the sensitive issue of reproductive loss. It grants employees the right to take protected time off for such events, marking a significant expansion of California’s unpaid leave policies. This law requires employers to modify their leave policies and practices to accommodate these new rights, ensuring that employees dealing with reproductive loss are supported and that their rights are respected.
Workplace Violence Prevention Program Mandate with SB 553
This legislation, which Governor Newsom signed into law on September 30, mandates that nearly all non-healthcare employers in California establish a workplace violence prevention program by July 1, 2024. Originating from standards developed for healthcare employers, this law now extends its reach to include a broader range of workplaces. It demands that employers implement comprehensive strategies to prevent and respond to instances of violence in the workplace, a requirement that underscores the increasing focus on employee safety and well-being.
Requirement for Employers to Pay for Food Handler Cards under SB 476
A notable shift in responsibility occurs with SB 476, signed into law on October 8. Previously, obtaining a food handler card – a requirement for many restaurant employees – was the financial responsibility of the employee. This law changes that, placing the financial burden squarely on the shoulders of employers. They must now cover all costs associated with acquiring these cards, necessitating budget adjustments and potentially altering hiring practices in the food service industry.
Setting a $20 Minimum Wage for Fast Food Workers with AB 1228
A landmark decision in the fast-food industry, this legislation sets a $20 minimum wage for workers in this sector. The law specifically targets larger fast-food chains, defined as those with more than 60 establishments nationally, and includes standardized establishments known for their common branding, decor, and service models. This wage increase is a significant step, reflecting the growing recognition of the value and contributions of fast-food workers.
Expansion of Data Broker Registration Requirements with SB 362
The “Delete Act,” signed into law on October 10, amends the state’s existing Data Broker Registration law. It grants consumers easier access to request the deletion of their data from approximately 500 registered data brokers. This law, which takes effect in January 2026, represents a significant advancement in consumer data rights, compelling businesses involved in data collection to reassess their practices and ensure they can comply with these consumer deletion requests.
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