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2024 Updates to California Employment Laws

By Krista Hiner · Mon, Jan 1, 2024 9:29 PM

The California legislature passed (or amended) several laws that should prompt California-employers to review their corresponding policies and update them where needed. The following is a summary of a few of these employment laws that went into effect on January 1, 2024, but keep in mind that while this is a summary of state laws, there may also be more restrictive local laws applicable to an employer's legal obligations:

Rebuttable Presumption of Retaliation: SB 497 creates a rebuttable presumption of retaliation under Labor Code sections 98.6 and 1197.5 if an employer engages in any adverse action within 90 days of an employee’s protected activity. For example, if an employee reports the CEO for sexual harassment and then 5 days later is terminated, this law would support a presumption that the employee was fired in retaliation for making a good faith report of harassment. This presumption makes it much easier for employees to establish a prima facie case. This does not mean the employee wins, but rather that the burden is on the employer from the outset to disprove their claim by articulating a legitimate, nonretaliatory reason for the employer's action.

Paid Sick Leave Minimums: SB 616 raises the amount of minimum paid sick leave to which employees are generally entitled. Previously, the minimum was 3 days (or 24 hours) per year. The bill raises this amount to 5 days (or 40 hours) per year. The bill also raises the amount of unused, sick leave that can accrue and rollover to the next year from 6 days (or 48 hours) to ten days (or 80 hours).

Reproductive Loss Leave: SB 848 requires employers of five or more employees to provide up to five non-consecutive days of additional protected leave to employees who have both (i) worked for the employer for 30+ days, and (ii) suffered a reproductive loss event (i.e., failed adoption, failed surrogacy, miscarriage, stillbirth, or an unsuccessful assisted reproduction). For employees experiencing multiple events in a 12-month period, there is a 20 day cap per 12-month period. The leave is paid, but employees can use any accrued, available paid leave available to them.

Off-The-Job Cannabis Use: SB 700 prohibits discriminating against an employee based on their legal use of cannabis off the job and away from the workplace. Employers may no longer rely on tests that screen for nonpsychoactive cannabis metabolites, as such methods may yield positive test results even if the individual has never used cannabis on the job or attended work while under the influence. (Note that this does not mean that cannabis users are a protected class, per se.)

Non-Competes: SB 699 establishes that California's prohibition against non-competes applies to contracts that were signed and maintained outside of California, even if the employee later moves to California. AB 1076 codifies the rule from Edwards v. Arthur Andersen LLP, 44 Cal. 4th 937 (2008): any non-compete, no matter now narrowly tailored is void. AB 1076 also obligates employers to notify any employees who have contracts containing non-competes that their non-compete clause or agreement is void.

Minimum Wage: Statewide minimum wage for exempt employees increased to $66,560/year, and non-exempt employees increased to $16.00/hour. (Certain cities and counties within California may have higher minimum wage rates, so be sure to double check all applicable local requirements).

We recommend that all California employers (which includes companies headquartered outside of California but employ California-residents, even if solely as remote workers) review their policies and make updates where needed.

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