At the beginning of each new year, the California State Legislative Branch enact a number of new laws, rules and regulations that affect most every employer and employee in our state. Here of the most pertinent laws that went into effect on January 1, 2023 and one that goes into effect on January 1, 2034.
Minimum Wage Increases
On January 1, 2023, the California state minimum wage increased to $15.50 per hour for all employers, regardless of size. Some cities and counties have even higher local minimum wage requirements.
At present, California has more than 35 cities and counties with their own minimum wage requirements, including but not limited to Los Angeles, Menlo Park, Oakland, San Francisco and South San Francisco, San Jose, San Diego and Santa Clara. In light of the significant number of varying requirements, employers now need to reevaluate any minimum wage requirements in the cities and counties where they have employees to ensure they do not run afoul of these new
Enhanced Retaliation Protections Surrounding Emergency Conditions
Effective January 1, 2023, SB 1044 added Section 1139 to the Labor Code, prohibiting employers from taking or threatening adverse action against an employee who refuses to report to or leaves a workplace due to his or her reasonable belief that the workplace is unsafe due to an “emergency condition.”
An employee’s belief is “reasonable” if a reasonable person would conclude that there is a real danger of death or serious injury if that person enters or remains on the premises.
An emergency condition is defined as either of the following:
Conditions of disaster or extreme peril to the safety of persons or property at the workplace or work site caused by natural forces or a criminal act.
An order to evacuate a workplace, a work site, a worker’s home or the school of the worker’s child, due to a natural disaster or a criminal act.
SB 1044 also makes it unlawful for employers to prevent employees from using their mobile devices to seek emergency assistance, assess the safety of a situation, or communicate with a person to verify their safety in such an emergency condition.
Notably, a number of essential first-responder and emergency jobs are exempted from this law, including but not limited to disaster service workers, healthcare facility employees or contractors providing direct patient care, licensed residential care facility employees, and employees of companies that provide utility, communications, energy or roadside assistance when the employees are engaged in aiding in emergency responses. See Labor Code Section 1139(b)(1) for the complete list of exemptions.
California Expands California Family Rights Act Leave
Under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), an employer with five or more employees must now provide eligible employees with up to 12 workweeks of unpaid family care and/or medical leave in any 12-month period.
AB 1041 amended Section 12945.2 of the Government Code, expanding the class of people for whom an employee may take family care leave under the CFRA to include a “designated person.” A designated person is defined as any individual related by blood or whose association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship. An employee does not have to pre-identify his or her designated person and may identify the person at the time of the leave request. However, the employer may limit the employee to one designated person per 12-month period.
AB 1041 similarly amended California’s paid sick leave law, with Labor Code Section 245.5 now allowing sick leave to be used for a “designated person” subject to the same terms and conditions that now apply to CFRA.
New Off-Duty Cannabis Discrimination Prohibitions to Take Effect Jan. 1, 2024
Although it does not become effective until January 1, 2024, AB 2188 added Section 12954 to the Government Code to make it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a person in hiring, termination, or any term or condition of employment, or otherwise penalize a person, based upon either (1) the person’s use of cannabis off the job and away from the workplace; or (2) an employer-required drug screening test that found nonpsychoactive cannabis metabolites in the person’s hair, blood, urine or other bodily fluids.
Notably, AB 2188 does not prohibit an employer from discriminating based on a test that does not screen for nonpsychoactive cannabis metabolites. The new law also will exempt certain applications and employees in building and construction trades and those requiring federal background investigation or clearance.
Importantly, the law does not permit or excuse an employee’s possession, use or impairment by cannabis while on the job, and it maintains employers’ rights and obligations in keeping the workplace drug- and alcohol-free.
Determining whether your employer has violated any of these newly enacted laws depends on the specific facts of your case. If have questions regarding your rights, please schedule a free consultation with Jay S. Rothman & Associates and we can discuss your situation and see if can be of service.