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2024 California Law Changes: An Essential Guide for Employers

California is known for its progressive labor laws, and 2024 is no different. With a series of new laws signed by Governor Newsom, the state is enhancing worker protections, minimum wage requirements, and more. If you're an employer or HR professional in California, staying informed about these changes is crucial to ensure compliance and maintain a healthy work environment.

Expanded Paid Sick Leave: SB 616

In recent years, several California cities launched local Paid Sick Leave (PSL) ordinances. Under the Safe and Sick Time law - SB 616, signed on October 4, the State of California has broadened its previously instated Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014. This development implies substantial modifications, applicable to employees who work 30 days or more in a year. For employers, anticipation and preparation for these changes are vital.

To prepare for the changes, employers should take the following five steps:

  1. Review local PSL ordinances to determine if they are preempted by the new law.
  2. Update written sick leave policies, employee handbooks, and training materials for compliance.
  3. Train managers and supervisors on the increased PSL, carryover, and accrual cap changes.
  4. Train HR and benefits specialists on the new regulations to ensure appropriate PSL accrual and cap management.
  5. Collaborate with the company's payroll processor to guarantee correct accrual and frontloading allowances and accurate wage statements.

Employers should review these changes and prepare well in advance to avoid noncompliance penalties.

Uplifting Minimum Wage: SB 525

Healthcare workers, both hourly and salaried, will experience a notable wage boost under SB 525. Signed on October 13, the legislation also grants employees the private right to enforce minimum wage guidelines, impacting healthcare employers statewide.

This new Californian law SB 525, effective June 1, 2024, will significantly raise the minimum wage for most hourly and salaried healthcare employees in the state. The new wage increases apply to all healthcare roles, from doctors and nurses to janitors and administrative staff. Even independent contractors are counted in the definition of "employees."

The law differentiates healthcare facilities into four categories: hospitals, clinics, skilled nursing facilities, and others. The minimum wage requirements for these categories will increase on a schedule starting from June 1, 2024.

Hospitals, for instance, will see a minimum wage increment from $23.00 per hour from June 1, 2024, to $25.00 per hour from June 1, 2026. The clinics and "Others" categories will have a similar increment scale, starting from $21.00 per hour from June 1, 2024, to $25.00 per hour from June 1, 2028. Skilled nursing facilities will cost $21.00 per hour from June 1, 2024, to $25.00 from June 1, 2027.

Additionally, the law introduces a minimum standard for salaried employees. A covered employer must ensure that a salaried employee earns a monthly salary equivalent to no less than 150% of the healthcare worker's minimum wage or 200% of the applicable minimum wage, whichever is greater.

The law mandates the Department of Industrial Relations to develop a waiver program to address potential financial challenges. This will allow impacted employers to apply for a one-year pause or alternative phase in the new minimum wage requirements. However, they would need to show proof that this law compliance would affect their business operations negatively.

Noncompete Agreements: The New Frontier - SB 699 & AB 1076

Two new policies are set to change the landscape of noncompete agreements. SB 699, signed September 1, prohibits employers from entering into or endeavoring to enforce noncompete agreements that are void under state law. This rule applies even if the contract was created or signed in another state.

Likewise, AB 1076, signed on October 13, necessitates employers to inform current and former employees about these noncompete policies in their agreements.

Here are the key things you should know:

  1. Prohibitions Under SB 699: California's SB 699 prohibits employers from entering or enforcing noncompete agreements that are void under state law. This prohibition applies regardless of whether the employee signed the contract or worked in another state. Employers violating this law will face civil violations after it takes effect on January 1, 2024.

  2. Lawsuits Under SB 699: The new law awards employees additional remedies when suing employers attempting to implement or enforce unlawful non-compete agreements. These include damages, injunctive relief, and reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.

  3. Changes under AB 1076: This law codifies existing case law, stating that all noncompetes in the employment context, no matter their narrowness, are void. Employers must notify current and former employees about void noncompete agreements in their contracts. The notice should be sent to their last known address and email address by February 14, 2024.

  4. Employer Actions: In anticipation of these changes, employers should review their current employment contracts to ensure no unlawful noncompetes can violate the new law. It is also wise to adopt a multi-faceted strategy to protect confidential and trade secret information rather than relying solely on noncompete agreements.

As these laws are enforced, it will be crucial for employers to maintain compliance and stay informed about any additional legal updates.

New Leave Rights: SB 848

Governor Newsom approved SB 848 on October 10, further expanding unpaid leave in California. Under the new law, employees can claim protected time off due to “reproductive loss,” requiring employers to modify their leave of absence policies.

Effective January 1, 2024, the law allows employees to take protected time off due to reproductive loss. Private employers with five or more employees and public employers of any size must provide time off for this reason.

Key aspects regarding the new law include:

  1. Employer and Employee Definitions: The law covers all individuals who have been employed for at least 30 days.

  2. Definition of Reproductive Loss: Reproductive loss is defined as a failed adoption, failed surrogacy, miscarriage, stillbirth, or unsuccessful assisted reproduction.

  3. Reproductive Loss Leave: Just like bereavement leave, eligible employees are entitled to receive up to five days of protective time off for reproductive loss. This leave does not need to be taken consecutively but must be completed within three months of the event.

  4. Payment: Whether the leave is paid or unpaid depends on the employer's existing leave policy. An employee is entitled to use vacation, personal leave, accrued and available sick leave, or compensatory time off that is otherwise available while on leave.

  5. No Documentation Required: The new law does not require employees to provide any documentation supporting their request for reproductive loss leave.

  6. Confidentiality: Employers must maintain the confidentiality of any employee requesting such a leave.

Employers should review their policies and handbook in line with these changes. They should also educate individuals involved in handling requests for leaves of absence.

Workplace Violence Prevention: SB 553

The passage of SB 553 necessitates almost every employer in the state to adhere to a workplace violence prevention standard. Although Cal/OSHA is working on a similar standard, the obligations under this new law, effective by July 1, 2024, are significant.

Here's a list of the main requirements and actions employers need to take:

  1. Workplace Violence Prevention Plan: Each employer must develop and implement a written plan to curb workplace violence. This plan should include systems for identifying and eliminating workplace hazards, training employees about safe practices, ensuring employees comply with these practices, procedures for reporting and addressing incidents, measures for response during a potential or actual violence emergency, and post-incident response and investigation procedures.

  2. Incorporating Injury and Illness Prevention Program Requirements: The plan must abide by the state’s Injury and Illness Prevention Program requirements. This includes creating a system for communicating safety matters, conducting periodic inspections for new workplace hazards, and providing access to workplace injury and illness reports to employees.

  3. Employee Training: Employers are required to provide training when the plan is initially implemented and annually thereafter. This training needs to cover the details of the plan, definitions and requirements of the law, how to report incidents, and how to prevent or respond to violence, among others.

  4. Violent Incident Log: Each violent incident must be recorded without including personal identifying information. The log should detail the date, time, location, type of violence, description of the event, classification of the offender and circumstances, and the consequences of the incident.

  5. Record Maintenance: Employers must keep records of each workplace violence hazard and their identification, evaluation, and correction for a minimum of five years. Training records should be kept for at least one year, and violent incident logs and investigation records must be retained for a minimum of one year.

Employers should be mindful of these upcoming regulations to ensure their compliance and protect their workers from workplace violence.

Food Handler Responsibility Transfer: SB 476

Previously, the burden of obtaining certification was on food handlers. A new law signed on October 8, SB 476, brings a change by necessitating employers to pay for all costs associated with obtaining a food handler card.

Adjusting Fast Food Minimum Wage: AB 1228

Under AB 1228, fast-food workers are set to receive a minimum wage of $20. The bill targets limited-service restaurants that are part of a national fast-food chain.

Enhanced Data Broker Registration: SB 362

SB 362, taking effect January 2026, amends California's existing Data Broker Registration law, providing consumers with centralized access for deletion of their data by all registered data brokers.

Five important questions around the Delete Act:

  1. Who Would Be Subject to This Law?:
    The law applies to "data brokers" - businesses knowingly collecting and selling personal consumer information. Exclusions apply to consumer reporting agencies, financial institutions, insurance institutions, and entities handling specific medical information. Data brokers must register with the California Privacy Protection Agency (CPPA).

  2. What is a Deletion Request?:
    According to SB 362, the CPPA must establish a webpage that displays data broker registration information and offers an accessible deletion mechanism. By August 2026, all registered data brokers must routinely check this mechanism to address any deletion requests.

  3. What are Valid Reasons for Data Brokers to Deny Deletion Requests?:
    The Delete Act includes exceptions to a data broker’s obligation to adhere to deletion requests, mainly aligned with eight exceptions under the CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act). If a data broker can prove that maintaining the data is “reasonably necessary” to meet one of these CCPA exceptions, they can decline the consumer’s request.

  4. What are the Consequences for Failure to Comply?:
    Businesses failing to appropriately register as data broker can face an administrative fine of $200 per day and associated costs. Non-compliance with a proper deletion request can result in an administrative fine of $200 each day the deletion request was violated.

  5. What Does This Mean for the Data Collection Industry?:
    If enacted, SB 362 will likely increase the operating costs for data brokers due to additional reporting, procedures, fees, and fines. The law could potentially impact a range of California businesses that heavily utilize data brokers. The most significant effect, presuming many consumers utilize their newfound deletion right, could be substantially fewer consumer data available for marketing use by businesses.

This bill is awaiting Governor Newsom's approval or rejection by October 14. Although the bill wouldn't be effective until 2026, affected industries are advised to seek legal guidance given the significant and detailed obligations in the new law.

Refined Court Proceedings: SB 365

With SB 365 in effect from January 1, 2024, litigation will not automatically pause during an appeal. This new law gives courts the discretion to determine whether a case can proceed while an appeal is underway.

Key points of this change include:

  1. What Changed?: Previously, trial court proceedings were automatically stayed pending the appeal of a petition to compel arbitration, aligning with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Coinbase, Inc. v. Bielski. The new law diverges from current standards and federal law.

  2. Impact: The change allows litigants to continue trial court proceedings while an appeal is ongoing, which could lead to judicial inefficiencies and undermine the benefits of arbitration as a faster and potentially more cost-effective alternative to litigation.

  3. Future Implications: The new California law may be preempted by the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) if challenged in court, as some believe it could discriminate against and obstruct arbitration—a practice upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

  4. Pending Cases: There is uncertainty regarding the status of ongoing cases that are pending appeal as of the effective date, January 1, 2024.

Employers and those involved in litigation should consult with their legal counsel to understand the ramifications of this change and stay informed about any developments or challenges related to the new law.

Cannabis Use and Employment Discrimination: SB 700

California's Fair Employment and Housing Act safeguards employees from workplace discrimination. From January 1, 2024, under SB 700, it is unlawful for employers to discriminate against employees using cannabis off the job and away from the workplace.

Staying informed about these changes is crucial for employers, and knowledge will ease the transition into the new legislative environment of 2024. At HR for Health, we are committed to equipping you with the most current information to navigate these changes seamlessly.

Staying Compliant in 2024

As California undergoes significant legislative changes in 2024, now is the time to ensure your healthcare or dental practice is equipped to stay compliant and efficient with these new laws. Fortunately, HR for Health has a comprehensive software solution designed specifically for your needs.

Don't wait — protect your practice and prepare for the future by choosing HR for Health's tailored software. With our expert guidance and streamlined tools, your practice will benefit from:

  • Comprehensive compliance management, minimizing the risk of fines and penalties
  • Decreased administrative burden as our software simplifies record keeping, employee training, and other time-consuming tasks
  • Up-to-date HR resources, including the latest law updates, customizable policies, and employee handbooks
  • Access to HR professionals and legal experts who can provide quick, on-demand guidance for any questions or concerns

Invest in your practice's success and stay ahead of the game by embracing HR for Health software today.

Don't miss this essential opportunity to safeguard your practice amid these changes. Equip your healthcare or dental practice with HR for Health software, and confidently navigate California's 2024 legal landscape.

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