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California Employers, Are You Ready for 2024? 10 Things to Watch

John Viola December 3, 2023

With 2024 almost upon us, it is time for California employers to update their policies and practices to comply with the new employment laws taking effect January 1, 2024. Here are 10 things to watch.

Minimum Wage: California’s state minimum wage increases to $16 per hour for non-exempt employees, regardless of size (several local governments have higher minimum wages); the minimum salary for exempt employees increases to $66,560 per year. In addition, the minimum wage increases to $23 per hour for nearly all health care workers effective June 1, 2024, and to $20 per hour for fast food workers, effective April 1, 2024, with yearly increases.

Paid Sick Leave: Employees will be entitled to five days or 40 hours of paid sick leave, up from the current three days or 24 hours. The usage cap increases from 24 hours to 40 hours. The accrual cap, if employers are not front-loading, increases from 48 hours or 6 days to 80 hours or 10 days. As with minimum wages, employers need to comply with local laws and ordinances that have higher requirements.

Unfair Competition: Unfair Competition Law section 16600.1 prohibits employers from entering into or attempting to enforce non-compete agreements with employees, regardless of where the employee worked when the agreement was signed. In addition, the new law also requires employers, by February 14, 2024, to notify current and former employees who were employed after January 1, 2022, that any non-compete agreements they may have signed may be void under the new law.

Reproductive Loss Leave: SB 848 entitles employees to five days of unpaid leave after a “reproductive loss event.” A reproductive loss event is defined 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.” Reproductive loss leave is separate and distinct from other statutory leaves, and employers may not retaliate against employees who take such leave. Reproductive loss leave must be taken within three months of the date of the reproductive loss event and need not be taken consecutively. The leave may be unpaid, or the employee may use available vacation or sick leave. If an employee experiences more than one reproductive loss event within a 12-month period, the employee will be eligible for a maximum of 20 days of unpaid reproductive loss leave within a 12-month period.

Workplace Violence Prevention: Effective July 1, 2024, employers must adapt a workplace prevention plan, to include recording incidents or threats of violence in a violence prevention log, providing training to employees, and maintaining records regarding their plan.

Cannabis Use and Drug Test Results: AB 2188 makes it unlawful for employers to discriminate in hiring, termination, or in any term or condition of employment, or to otherwise penalize an employee for off-duty cannabis use away from the workplace or the results of an employer-required drug test that finds non-psychoactive cannabis metabolites in their hair, blood, urine, or other bodily fluids. Importantly, employees are not allowed to possess or use marijuana while on the job and employers still can maintain drug-free workplaces.

In a related measure, SB 700 expands the Fair Employment and Housing Act to protect applicants from discrimination based on prior cannabis use and prohibits employers from asking about prior cannabis use on applications for employment.

Whistleblower Protection: SB 497 amends the California Labor Code to provide a rebuttable presumption of retaliation if an employee is disciplined or discharged within 90 days of reporting wage and hour violations; threatening to disclose or disclosing information to a government or law enforcement agency where the employee has reasonable cause to believe the information discloses a violation of a state or federal statute, rule, or regulation; or, reporting or attempting to enforce rights pertaining to equal pay.

Arbitration Agreements: AB 365 provides that trial court proceedings will not be automatically stayed during the pendency of an appeal of an order dismissing or denying a petition to compel arbitration.

Notice Requirement: AB 636 adds a new requirement to the wage and employment notice for new hires required under Labor Code section 2810.5. Under the amended statute, employers now must also provide information about federal and state emergency declarations applicable to any counties in which employees are employed.

Food Handler Cards:  California requires certain workers to obtain a food handler card within 30 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 and to pay employees for the time required to complete training, the cost of testing, and any element required for the completion of the certification program.

John Viola is a partner in Thompson Coburn’s Labor and Employment practice group, which includes several attorneys who can discuss any of your California employment needs.