The California legislature had another busy year passing new laws and updating other laws that affect in-state businesses’ relationships with their employees and customers.  Below are some the highlights.

Right to Bereavement Leave (AB 1949)

Beginning in 2023, employers with five or more employees will be required to provide five days of unpaid bereavement leave to employees within three months of the date of death of a family member.  For employers with existing bereavement leave policies, the bill requires that leave be taken pursuant to such policy.  However, if the policy provides less than five days of leave, a total of five days will need to be offered.  Additionally, the new law prohibits discrimination or retaliation against employees who exercise the new rights.

New Category of Family Member for Leaves of Absence (AB 1041)

As of January 1, 2023, California employees will be entitled to family leave under the California Family Rights Act and paid sick leave law to care for a “designated person” who is related by blood to the employee or who the employee has the equivalent of a family relationship with.  Under the new law, the employee may identify the “designated person” at the time the employee requests the leave, but an employer may limit an employee to one designated person per 12-month period.

Leave for Emergency Conditions (SB 1044)

In addition to bereavement leave and leave to care for a “designated person,” employees will also have the right to refuse to come to or return to work in the event the employee has a reasonable belief that the workplace is unsafe due to an “emergency condition.”  An emergency condition covers disasters caused by nature or crime and orders to evacuate work, home or the school of a worker’s child but specifically excludes a health pandemic.

Minimum Wage

Beginning on January 1, 2023, the minimum wage will rise to $15.50 per hour for all California employers regardless of size.  But keep in mind, the statewide hike is still lower than many local minimum wages in cities like Berkeley, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santa Monica and West Hollywood.

Fast Food Accountability and Standards Recovery Act (AB 257)

The Fast Food Accountability and Standards Recovery Act (“FAST Act”) would establish a “Fast Food Sector Council” to set industry-wide standards for “restaurants consisting of 100 or more establishments nationally that share a common brand, or that are characterized by standardized options for decor, marketing, packaging, products, and services,” including uniform standards for minimum wages, working hours, and working conditions.  The FAST Act, which would cover approximately 750,000 workers at 15,000 restaurants in the state, could raise the minimum wage for employees of affected businesses to $22 an hour.  The FAST Act is set to take effect January 1, 2023; however, we note that an industry trade organization recently filed a lawsuit seeking to enjoin enforcement of the FAST Act, pending a voter referendum to be placed on the California November 2023 election ballot.  If successful, the suit would delay implementation until at least 2024.  We are monitoring the FAST Act and related challenges and will keep you posted.

Privacy Rights

The California Privacy Rights Act (“CPRA”) eliminates carve outs for employee data under the California Consumer Privacy Act.  The CPRA also creates a sanctions regime, including potential fines of $2,500 per violation and $7,500 per intentional violation.  While the law does not take effect until January 1, 2023, employee information going back to January 1, 2022 will be subject to the new rules.

Wage Transparency in Recruitment (SB 1162)

Also starting January 1, 2023, businesses that employ 15 or more people will have to include salary ranges in all job postings and provide such ranges to existing employees upon request.  The law also creates a rebuttable presumption in favor of a complaining employee if an employer fails to keep records related to the job posting and salary requirements.  Fines for violating the law will range from $100 to $10,000 per violation.

Off-Duty Cannabis Use (AB 2188)

Starting on January 1, 2024, this new law makes it unlawful to discriminate against employees because of their use of cannabis off the job and away from the workplace.  The bill does not, however, allow employees to possess, be impaired by, use or distribute cannabis on the job.

Expanded Investigatory Powers for Violations of Unfair Competition Laws (AB 2766)

Beginning in the new year, city and county attorneys, in addition to district attorneys, will be granted power to investigate instances of unlawful, unfair, or fraudulent business acts or practices, and deceptive advertising.

Please contact Jerry HawxhurstPatrick Nichols, or Kyle Foltyn-Smith if you would like to learn more about these new laws or our Firm’s employment practice.