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New Year, New Employment Laws for 2024

Sat Mar. 2nd, 2024 News and Media
  • The new California employment-related laws for 2024 address paid leave, including reproductive loss leave; noncompete clauses; workplace violence prevention plans and new claims giving rise to retaliation.
  • Most of these new employment laws come into effect on January 1, 2024.

Paid Sick Leave (SB 616)

SB 616 expands paid sick leave entitlements for California employees to 40 hours or five days (whichever is greater) per year effective January 1, 2024 by amending California Labor Code sections 245.5, 246, and 246.5.
Employers will generally have the following three options to choose from for paid sick leave compliance purposes:
  • Like before, the employee can accrue one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked;
  • The employee can get an upfront grant of 40 hours or five days of paid sick leave (whichever is greater) at the beginning of employment and each 12 month period thereafter (“front-loading”) (no carryover or accrual of sick leave is required);
  • Like before, the employee can accrue sick leave at a rate other than one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked, provided the accrual is regular and results in the accrual of no less than 24 hours or 3 days of sick leave by the 120th day of employment and no less than 40 hours or 5 days of sick leave by the 200th day of employment.
When sick leave is accrued (i.e., it is not being frontloaded), SB 616 allows employers to impose a maximum accrual cap of 80 hours or 10 days and a use limit of 40 hours or five days per 12-month period. Under existing law, the allowable maximum accrual cap is 48 hours or six days and the allowable use limit is 24 hours or three days per 12 month period.

Noncompete Agreements and Notice Requirements (SB 699, AB 1076)

SB 699 prohibits employers from entering into or trying to enforce noncompete agreements with employees.
Additionally, AB 1076 requires employers to notify current employees and former employees (employed after January 1, 2022) in writing by February 14, 2024, that any noncompete agreements they may have signed are void.

Reproductive Leave Loss for Employees (SB 848)

SB 848 allows eligible employees to take up to five days of unpaid leave following a “reproductive loss event.” Employees experiencing a reproductive loss and wishing to take a leave must be employed with an employer with at least five employees for at least thirty days prior to the commencement of the leave. The law defines a “reproductive loss event” as “the day or, for a multiple-day event, the final day of a failed adoption, failed surrogacy, miscarriage, stillbirth, or an unsuccessful assisted reproduction.”

Workplace Violence Prevention Program (SB 553)

Effective July 1, 2024, employers must adopt comprehensive workplace violence prevention plans, either as part of their injury and illness prevention programs or as a separate document. SB 553 imposes specific requirements on employers, including:
  • recording incidents or threats in a violent incident log;
  • providing training to all employees; and
  • maintaining records related to a workplace violence prevention plan.

Arbitration Enforcement (SB 365)

Trial court proceedings will not be automatically stayed during the pendency of an appeal of an order denying a petition to compel arbitration. SB 365 will allow litigation to continue during such an appeal.

Off-Duty Cannabis Use and Drug Test Results (AB 2188, SB 700)

California has two new laws going into effect related to cannabis use and drug test results.
The first is AB 2188, which Governor Newsom signed in 2022 and will be effective January 1, 2024. AB 2188 makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against individuals in hiring, termination, or any term or condition of employment, or to otherwise penalize an individual for cannabis use or drug test results under certain circumstances.
Specifically, the law prohibits employers from taking these actions for either: (1) off-duty cannabis use away from the workplace; or (2) the results of an employer-required drug screening test that has found individuals to have nonpsychoactive cannabis metabolites in their hair, blood, urine, or other bodily fluids.
AB 2188 does not allow employees to possess or use marijuana on the job, nor does it interfere with an employer’s right to maintain a drug-free and alcohol-free workplace. An employer may still refuse to hire an applicant based on scientifically valid pre-employment drug screening conducted through methods that do not screen for nonpsychoactive cannabis metabolites. There are also certain exceptions to AB 2188 such as for employees in the building and construction trades.
The second is SB 700, which expands California’s FEHA to protect applicants from discrimination based on prior cannabis use, with some exceptions. Specifically, SB 700 prohibits employers from requesting information from an applicant for employment relating to the applicant’s prior use of cannabis. Additionally, when an employer gathers criminal history information regarding an applicant’s prior cannabis use, SB 700 makes it unlawful for employers to use such information. There are exceptions for situations in which the employer is permitted to consider or inquire about that information under state or federal law.

New Industry-Specific Laws

Increased Minimum Wage for Health Care Workers (SB 525)

This bill enacts a multi-tiered statewide minimum wage schedule for health care workers employed by certain covered health care facilities. Under this new law, “covered health facility” covers nearly all health care facilities except those owned, controlled, or operated by the California Department of State Hospitals, tribal clinics exempt from licensure, and outpatient settings operated by federally recognized tribes. “Covered health care employee” covers a broad range of employees, from physicians and nurses to janitors and clerical workers.

Fast-Food Minimum Wage Increase to $20/hour (AB 1228)

This new bill repeals the FAST Food Accountability and Standards Recovery Act and replaces it with a $20 per hour minimum wage for fast food workers, among other provisions. Under this law, the minimum wage for California fast food restaurant employees will increase to $20 per hour starting April 1, 2024. This minimum wage will increase annually through 2029. AB 1228 also establishes the Fast Food Council which, starting in 2024, likely will make recommendations regarding other work place conditions.

Food Handler Cards (SB 476)

The California Health and Safety Code currently requires certain workers to obtain a food handler card within thirty days of their hire date and to maintain this card throughout their employment as a food handler. SB 476 requires employers to cover any cost associated with obtaining a food handler card. In addition to the certification program cost, this obligation includes payment for employees’ time required to complete training, the cost of testing, and any element required for the completion of the certification program.

New Case Law

Time Clock Rounding

In Camp v. Home Depot., an employee alleged that Home Depot’s policy of rounding clock-in and clock-out times to the nearest quarter-hour resulted in unpaid minimum and overtime wages. Camp claimed he wasn’t paid for at least 470 minutes over four and a half years of work due to the rounding policy. Home Depot argued its rounding policy was neutral on its face and neutral as applied.
“A few extra minutes of worktime periodically lost due to a purportedly neutral time-rounding policy can add up over time,” the appellate court said. Because the technology used in timekeeping systems has evolved, “it is not clear that any efficiencies were gained by The Home Depot in capturing time worked in minutes by plaintiff Camp and then rounding that time to the nearest quarter hour.”
Odds are that the California Supreme Court ultimately will declare that time rounding is not permissible when technology permits employers to accurately record the actual time worked by employees.

Arbitration and PAGA

In July 2023, the California Supreme Court in Adolph v. Uber Technologies, Inc. affirmed the key holding in the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Viking River Cruises v. Moriana last year—the FAA requires PAGA plaintiffs to arbitrate their “individual” claims based on Labor Code violations they alleged to have personally suffered. But the California Supreme Court diverged from Viking River Cruises in a significant respect, holding that plaintiffs have standing to pursue non-individual, representative PAGA claims for violations alleged to have been suffered by other alleged aggrieved employees in court, evidently after arbitrating the individual PAGA claims.
In other words, only once the arbitrator finds a PAGA plaintiff is an “aggrieved employee” may a case proceed on a representative basis in the trial court. This seems to indicate that if a plaintiff loses their individual PAGA claim in arbitration, they lose standing to pursue that claim in a representative capacity in court.
Contact us regarding your new 2024 handbook.