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California Employment Laws Going Into Effect by 2024

The California legislature did serious work during its final session for 2023. The Assembly and Senate sent dozens of bills supporting workers’ rights to Governor Gavin Newsom, who approved many. Most of these laws will go into effect between now and 2024, granting employees new protections in many industries. 

However, you can only exercise your rights and benefit from protections if you know what they are. Here’s what you should know about the changes made by the upcoming bills and what to do if you suspect your rights are being violated. 

SB 497: The Rebuttable Presumption of Retaliation

One of the biggest improvements to state employment law is due to Senate Bill (SB) 497, which goes into effect on January 1, 2024. This law, also known as the Equal Pay and Anti-Retaliation Protection Act, creates a “rebuttable presumption of retaliation” in certain circumstances. 

Currently, employees must establish a prima facie claim or provide a strong case for their retaliation claim before their employer needs to respond. However, once SB 497 goes into effect, the burden of proof will be shifted to employers first. 

Laws creating rebuttable presumptions require courts to assume something is true until proven otherwise. When workers are disciplined or terminated within 90 days of reporting equal pay violations or discrimination in the workplace, SB 497 requires the courts to assume that the adverse action is retaliation. The employer has to provide a legitimate, non-retaliatory reason for the action or the employee’s claim is deemed accurate. This change will make it significantly easier for victims of workplace retaliation to establish their claims in court.

SB 699 & AB 1076: Noncompete Agreements Are Unlawful

Two new laws going into effect on January 1, 2024, will make noncompete agreements unlawful in California.

Currently, noncompete agreements are considered void statewide. However, employers can include invalid clauses in contracts; the courts simply will not enforce them. As such, businesses may still include unenforceable noncompete clauses to intimidate workers into believing they cannot compete with their employers after leaving the company. 

SB 699 and Assembly Bill (AB) 1076 will change that. SB 699 renders all noncompete agreements or other contracts restraining trade void and unenforceable, regardless of where the contract was signed or maintained. Furthermore, it makes creating or attempting to enforce these agreements a civil violation and grants current, former, or prospective employees the right to file a lawsuit against any company trying to implement a noncompete. 

AB 1076 reinforces these restrictions. It codifies existing case law and requires the current prohibition on noncompete clauses to be read broadly. It also expressly states that these agreements are unlawful and requires employers to notify all current and former employees employed after January 1, 2022, that any anticompetitive contract clauses are void by February 14, 2024. 

SB 616 and SB 848: Expanding Protected Leave

California already has some of the country’s best protections for taking time off work. SB 616 and 848 further expand these rights. SB 616 increases the state’s paid sick leave requirements from a minimum of three days (24 hours) to a minimum of five days (40 hours) per year. It also requires companies that offer accrued sick leave to increase the accrual rate to one hour per 30 hours worked and to permit a minimum of 40 hours to roll over from year to year. 

Meanwhile, SB 848 expands the state’s protected bereavement leave to include reproductive losses. These are defined as:

  • Miscarriages
  • Stillbirths
  • Failed adoptions
  • Failed surrogacies
  • Unsuccessful assisted reproduction attempts

For each loss, employers may not refuse an employee’s request for up to five days of unpaid leave to physically and emotionally recuperate within 90 days of the loss. The law does not state that companies may request medical documentation or other proof of the loss. It also permits workers to take up to 20 days of leave for these losses per year, allowing for multiple failed attempts. Finally, it does not dictate gender, so employees may take time off to care for their partners even if they did not directly suffer a miscarriage. 

SB 525: Raising the Healthcare Minimum Wage

One law that doesn’t go into effect until June 1, 2024, is still worth mentioning. SB 525 will raise the minimum wage for most healthcare facilities and employees statewide. This is both an attempt to address the shortage of healthcare workers in California and to improve the working conditions and benefits they receive. 

Under the bill, most covered healthcare employees will receive a minimum wage of $23 per hour beginning on June 1, 2024. This will increase to $24 per hour on June 1, 2025, and $25 per hour on June 1, 2026, with the pattern continuing until new legislation states otherwise. This specific rate applies to the state’s largest medical employers. Smaller facilities must also achieve minimum wages of $25 per hour by June 2033. 

The change applies not just to doctors, nurses, and certified nursing assistants. It also applies to support workers such as janitors, housekeepers, medical billing professionals, and anyone else employed by covered healthcare providers. It should impact approximately two million California residents, or about 10% of the state’s workforce

Talk to Our Employment Attorneys About Your Claim

California has demonstrated an ongoing commitment to improving conditions for workers statewide. Once these laws go into effect at the start of the year, they will substantially enhance employee protections across a wide range of industries. However, you don’t have to wait until January to get help. If you’ve already experienced retaliation, had requests for currently protected leave denied by your employer, or struggled with a noncompete clause in an employment contract, the expert attorneys at the Law Offices of Todd M. Friedman, P.C., can help. Schedule your consultation with our professionals to discover how we can assist you with your claim.

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