New Employment Laws 2024
Five days of Paid Sick Leave for all employees
Employees in California will be allowed to take five days (40 hours) of paid sick leave — up from the current three — under Senate Bill 616 signed into law in October. The law applies to employers of every size, and employers may continue to provide frontloaded time or utilize the statutory accrual rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked up to 40 hours annually. Employers may limit carry over of unused sick leave to 80 hours.
Also under the law, employers:
Must update their policies to reflect the increases.
Continue to provide employees with the amount of available Paid Sick Leave, either on the printed wage statement or in a separate written document provided on the pay date.
Pay the employee for any used sick leave no later than the payday for the next regular payroll period.
The law does stipulate that employees should provide “reasonable advance notification” of a foreseeable need to use Paid Sick Leave.
Read SHRM’s article to learn more.
Protections for employees’ off-duty use of cannabis
Beginning Jan. 1, California law will bar most employers from penalizing or discriminating against applicants or workers who use cannabis off the clock and off-site. Also, drug tests commonly used by employers now to detect the presence of cannabis molecules will no longer be usable to terminate a worker, restrict hiring or otherwise penalize a worker because the tests do not indicate that a worker is impaired on the job.
Specifically, employers cannot discriminate against a person in hiring, firing or any other employment decision based on:
The person’s use of cannabis off the job and away from the practice.
The employer’s drug screening test that found the person to have nonpsychoactive cannabis metabolites in their hair, blood, urine or other bodily fluids.
The governor signed the bill into law in fall 2022 with a delayed effective date to give employers who already have or wish to maintain a drug test policy adequate time to research and implement a compliant policy, as well as laboratories time to revise their testing processes. The law does not permit workers to use, possess or be impaired by cannabis while on the job and does not alter an employer’s right and obligation to maintain a drug-free workplace.
Pre-employment inquiries about cannabis use will be unlawful
Gov. Newsom this year signed a second bill that provides cannabis use-related protections in employment decisions.
Senate Bill 700 amends California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act to prohibit most employers from asking job applicants about their prior use of cannabis for the purpose of making an employment decision, including hiring or terminating, or for disciplinary purposes. Employees in the building and construction trades are exempt from the law.
The law takes effect Jan. 1.
Leave for qualifying reproductive loss must be granted
Employers cannot refuse to grant any eligible employee’s request for up to five days of leave for reproductive loss under a new law that expanded the California Fair Employment and Housing Act. The law defines reproductive loss as a failed adoption or surrogacy or a miscarriage, stillbirth or unsuccessful assisted reproduction experienced by the employee or their spouse or domestic partner.
Among other provisions, the law:
Requires employees to take the leave within three months of the qualifying event, except as described in the bill.
Does not obligate the employer to provide more than 20 days of leave time for reproductive loss within 12 consecutive months.
Makes it unlawful for an employer to retaliate against an individual who exercises their right to use reproductive loss leave.
New protections for employee conduct
Existing state law prohibits employers from terminating or discriminating or retaliating against employees or job applicants who engaged in specified protected conduct, and employees who are unlawfully discharged or subjected to an employer’s adverse action are entitled to reinstatement and reimbursement of lost wages.
A new law effective Jan. 1 creates a rebuttable presumption in favor of an employee’s claim if an employer engages in any “retaliatory action” within 90 days of a protected activity. The law also states that employers cannot prohibit an employee from discussing or disclosing their wages, inquiring about another employee’s wages or encouraging another employee to exercise their rights under the law.
Noncompete agreements declared unlawful
Up until now, employers were able to include noncompete agreements in their contracts with employees, but the agreements have been unenforceable historically. Such agreements are intended to prevent or restrain an employee from engaging in another lawful possession, trade or business of any kind during their employment.
Beginning Jan. 1, including a noncompete clause in an employment contract or requiring an employee to enter a noncompete agreement will be considered unlawful regardless of where and when the agreement was signed.
The new law requires employers who have noncompete agreements in place to notify their current and former employees in writing by Feb. 14, 2024, that the noncompete clause or agreement is void.
Law amends arbitration procedure
Under California’s Code of Civil Procedure, an aggrieved party may appeal certain orders, including an order that dismisses or denies the party’s petition to compel arbitration. Existing law generally stays — or delays — proceedings in the trial court that are pending an appeal of an order denying a motion to compel arbitration. Senate Bill 365 amends the code to specify that trial court proceedings will not be automatically stayed during a pending appeal of an order to dismiss or deny a petition to compel arbitration.
Optometrists who use arbitration agreements should have their attorney review them for compliance with state law.
Unenforceability of restrictive covenants
In business contracts, restrictive covenants restrain employees from engaging in a lawful profession, trade or business. Beginning Jan. 1, any contract containing an employee restrictive covenant will be unenforceable regardless of when it was signed.
The law bars employers and former employers from enforcing a contract that restricts an employee’s ability to engage in a lawful profession, trade or business, even if the contract was signed outside of California and the employment was maintained outside the state. Additionally, it prohibits employers from entering into a contract with an employee or prospective employee that includes noncompete clauses and other restrictive covenants that are void.
Workplace violence prevention plan required
Employers will be required to establish, implement and maintain “an effective workplace violence prevention plan containing specified information” no later than July 1, 2024, under SB 553 signed into law in September.
The law will require employers to:
Record information in a violent-incident log for every workplace violence incident, as specified.
Provide effective training to employees on the workplace violence prevention plan and additional training when a new or previously unrecognized workplace violence hazard has been identified and when changes are made to the plan.
Create and maintain records of workplace violence hazard identification, evaluation, correction and training.
Maintain violent-incident logs and workplace incident investigation records to be maintained.
Additionally, employers must make certain records available to employees and others, as specified.
Clarifying basic labor rights for minors seeking work permits
Beginning Aug. 1, 2024, any minor seeking an authority’s signature on a Statement of Intent to Employ a Minor and a Request for a Work Permit must be issued a document that explains workers’ basic labor rights. The document must express those labor rights in plain, natural terminology and be provided before or at the time the authority provides the signature.
Electronic versions of the document must be made available to the minor in additional languages other than English.
Unemployment Insurance Program and EITC notifications
Through Jan. 1, 2029, employers will be allowed to provide their employees with information about the Earned Income Tax Credit and Unemployment Insurance Program by email to the employee's preferred email address only if the employee opts into receiving electronic statements or materials in writing or electronically. Such notifications include potential eligibility for certain income tax filing assistance programs, antipoverty tax credits and information related to claims for UI benefits, for example.
Small business mediation program extended
The employer family leave mediation program provides employers with five to 19 employees and their current or former employees the right to mediate certain disputes before the employee can file a court case. Covered employers and employees can mediate – at no cost to either party – disputes about the employee’s right to medical or family care leave under the California Family Rights Act, as well as bereavement leave.
Originally set to end Jan. 1, 2024, the program was extended through Jan. 1, 2025. Read California Civil Rights Department’s FAQ about the program.