new California laws

Alert: New California Employment Protections Signed Into Law

By Alex Li and Xinying Valerian

The close of California’s legislative season means changes in the employment landscape.  California continues to take the lead in enacting protections for workers. The following laws are set to take effect on January 1, 2023 unless otherwise specified.

The Pay Transparency Act – SB 1162 

This bill requires employers with more than 15 employees to include a salary or wage range on all job postings, including postings on third-party websites such as Indeed and Glassdoor. This will enable job seekers to assess the pay range of a position before committing to a potentially lengthy and involved interview and hiring process, as well as allow workers to more easily assess whether their current compensation at their job aligns with pay standards across similar positions at their own and other companies. Current employers will also be required to disclose, upon an employee’s request, the pay scale of the job the employee is currently working. Both provisions of SB 1162 help promote pay equity by giving workers the information they need to advocate for themselves during and after the hiring process.

SB 1162 also expands employer pay data reporting requirements. Under current California law, all employers with over 100 employees are required to report pay data to the California Civil Rights Department (formerly known as the Department of Fair Housing and Employment, or DFEH). SB 1162 requires this pay data to be further broken down by race, ethnicity, and sex for each job category, and will apply to both direct and contract employees. This greater level of detail in reported pay data will aid in the detection of pay discrimination within large companies.

Safeguards for Undocumented Immigrants in Court – SB 836

SB 836 protects undocumented immigrants from having their immigration status revealed in court, unless the presiding judge deems that their immigration status is relevant information. These protections were originally introduced into law in 2018, but expired on January 1, 2022. SB 785 makes these protections permanent, encouraging undocumented immigrants to participate in the legal process without fear that they will be threatened with the disclosure of their immigration status.

Bereavement Leave – AB 1949

This bill will require employers to provide at least 5 days of unpaid bereavement leave to eligible employees upon the death of a family member. This bill also protects employees who take bereavement leave from retaliation, interference, or discrimination for taking this protected bereavement leave.

Caregiving for Chosen Family – AB 1041

Under current California law, a qualifying employee can take family care, sick, or medical leave to care for a family member. AB 1041 will expand the definition of who qualifies as a family member for the purposes of this leave to include not only family members who are related “by blood”, but also a “designated person”, whose relationship with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship. 

Workers Rights in Emergencies & No Retaliation – SB 1044

This new law will prohibit an employer from taking or threatening adverse action against any employee for refusing to report to, or leaving, a workplace or worksite if the employee has a reasonable belief that the area is unsafe. The bill would also prohibit an employer from preventing any employee (including employees of public entities, as specified) from accessing a mobile device or other communications device for seeking emergency assistance, assessing the safety of the situation, or communicating with a person to confirm their safety. The bill would require an employee to notify the employer of the emergency condition requiring the employee to leave or refuse to report to the workplace or worksite.

Employer Mandatory COVID Reporting – AB 2693

AB 2693 amends Labor Code Sections 6325 and 6409.6 relating to COVID-19 exposure in the workplace. It extends existing requirements to post notices about COVID-19 infection hazards in the workplace to January 1, 2024. The bill also updates the content and timing requirements for notices that employers must post at the worksite when there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the worksite within the infectious period. Among other things, the bill specifies other forms of reporting and documentation that must occur in cases of employee close contact with confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Discrimination in Employment for Use of Cannabis – AB 2188

This bill, which takes effect on January 1, 2024, makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against workers for using marijuana outside of the job and away from the workplace, or for the presence of non-psychoactive compounds deriving from the consumption of cannabis that show up on outdated drug testing methods. However, AB 2188 continues to allow preemployment drug screening. Certain groups of workers, including construction workers and positions that require federal background investigations or security clearance, are exempt from AB 2188.

Lactation Rooms in Courthouses – AB 1576

For those of us who frequent (or used to frequent) courthouses, as well as members of the public who report to jury duty, here is an interesting new law to improve access for new mothers.  AB 1576, which will take effect July 1, 2024, will require courthouses in California to provide private, clean, and safe lactation facilities to any court user in an area accessible to the public. 

Fast Food Sector Council – AB 257

This is a groundbreaking new law that seeks to set statewide standards for fast food workers employed by larger franchise brands. The law establishes a 10-member council that includes political appointees from state health and labor agencies, as well as food industry officials, fast food workers, and union representatives. The council would “promulgate minimum standards” for wages, hours, and other working conditions for restaurants where workers aren’t unionized and establish protections for workers who exercise their rights. The California legislature and state Division of Occupational Safety and Health would have an opportunity to reject or change the state council’s proposed standards.  Interestingly, cities of a certain minimum size are authorized to form their own local council to provide recommendations to the statewide council about the fast food labor standards they believe should exist in their cities. To be covered by the minimum standards resulting from this process, the restaurant must be a part of a chain of 100 or more similar restaurants anywhere in the US.

This hard-fought new law does not set brand new standards by itself, but creates a structure to facilitate better conditions for fast food workers in the long run.