The 2023 California Legislative session, which ended on September 14, 2023, saw a flurry of activity on labor and employment-related laws. Governor Gavin Newson signed a litany of legislative bills before the end of the recent legislative session and included amongst the 900+ bills he signed were the following bills pertaining to the rights of employees in the workplace.
AB 1228: Fast Food Franchisor Responsibility Act
This bill repealed the FAST Act and implemented new regulations of the fast-food industry in California. Notably, this bill increases the minimum wage to $20 per hour as of April 1, 2024, and establishes the Fast Food Council.
Assembly Bill 594: Public prosecution for wage theft/labor code violations
Public prosecutors (meaning, the Attorney General, a district attorney, a city attorney, a county counsel, or any other city or county prosecutor) can enforce labor code violations by pursuing civil or criminal actions for certain labor code violations. These labor code violations include unpaid minimum wage, unpaid overtime, failure to provide meal breaks, and failure to provide rest breaks. Public prosecutors may also enforce these labor code sections independently. Any money recovered until this code will go to the affected workers, and all civil penalties recovered under this section will be paid to the General Fund of California. An employee may also be entitled to reasonable attorney fees.
Assembly Bill 1076and Senate Bill 699: Noncompete Agreements and Clauses
AB 1076 and SB 699 codifies existing law. SB 699 voids any contract that restricts an employee from engagement in a lawful profession, trade, or business of any kind, or a noncompete agreement. This would prohibit an employer from seeking to enforce a noncompete agreement, regardless of where or when the contract was signed. This restriction applies even if the contract was signed outside of California, or if the employment was maintained outside of California. SB 699 also authorizes an employee, former employee, or prospective employee to bring an action seeking injunctive relief, or for the recovery of actual damages, and allows the prevailing employee, former employee, or prospective employee to recover reasonably attorney’s fees and costs.
Similarly, AB 1076, makes it unlawful to impose a noncompete clause on employees, unless an exception applies.
Senate Bill 616: Paid Sick Leave Expansion
Currently, employers are required to provide employees with three days, or 24 hours, of paid sick leave. Beginning January 1, 2024, employers will be required to provide five days, or 40 hours. Employers will be able to control the amount used per year at five days or 40 hours per year and cap accrual at 10 days or 80 hours. Many California cities, including West Hollywood, have established local paid sick leave ordinances that provide more leave than required under California law. Employees should be sure to review local ordinances to determine which leave applies or contact one of the attorneys at our office for a free consultation.
Senate Bill 723: Re-Hiring Rights for Laid-Off Employees
Currently, employers in the hospitality and business service provider industries are required to offer reemployment to qualified former employees as long as the former employees were (1) employed for at least 6 months in the year before January 1, 2020, and (2) laid off for a reason related to the pandemic. This is now expanded to apply to former employees who were employed for at least 6 months and laid off on or after March 4, 2020. Additionally, any separation due to a lack of business, reduction in force, or other economic, nondisciplinary reason is presumably a reason related to COVID-19. This law sunsets on December 31, 2025.