As the new year approaches, workers around the country can prepare for changes for the better. State legislators nationwide put in the effort to pass bills expanding workers’ rights and granting them more protections. The majority of these new rules kick in on January 1st, 2023.
Since these updates are state and not federal laws, the exact changes vary depending on where you live. Keep reading for an overview of some of the most significant employment law changes kicking in for California, Illinois, and Pennsylvania residents on New Year’s Day.
California is going to see the most improvements in working conditions by far. The state took impressive action over the past year to give workers more rights and protections in the wake of the pandemic. The most noticeable employment law updates include the following:
- Growing the California Family Rights Act (CFRA): The CFRA grants workers the right to up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for family members. As of 2023, workers will be able to designate the person they want to care for rather than being restricted to caring for immediate family members and spouses. This allows employees to care for their families regardless of their specific legal relationships.
- Expanding the Cal-WARN Act: The Cal-WARN Act requires employers with at least 75 part- and full-time employees to provide 60 days’ notice before firing 50 or more workers. In the new year, this will extend to call centers that intend to relocate a facility. Call centers must provide workers 60 days’ notice before relocating facilities. Failing to do so may give workers grounds to file civil claims against their employer.
- Extending COVID-19 workers’ compensation: There is an automatic presumption that workers who catch COVID-19 caught it at work, allowing them to pursue workers’ compensation for infections. New legislation will extend this through December 31st, 2023, allowing workers to continue to receive workers’ comp if they need to take time off to recover.
- Strengthening mandatory health benefits: California will require religious employers and insurance companies who do not provide health coverage to workers for contraception to provide clear and accessible information on free benefits and services from the California Reproductive Health Equity Program. In addition, employers may not discriminate against workers based on their reproductive health decisions, including contraception or abortion services.
- Extending definition of workplace hate crimes: In response to a wave of religious and racial discrimination lawsuits filed by the California Labor Commissioner against employers, legislators expanded the definition of workplace hate crimes to include the display of hateful imagery and symbols like nooses, burning crosses, and Nazi swastikas. This will give workers more substantial grounds for filing lawsuits against their employers for harassment and discrimination.
Illinois was no slouch either when it came to protecting workers. New state laws will give workers better protections, including:
- Expanding protected time off: Illinois provides protected, unpaid time off for workers for specific health and family emergencies. In the new year, this will be extended to include pregnancy loss, failed IVF treatments, diagnoses that affect pregnancies, and even failed adoptions or surrogacies. The new law will allow workers to take unpaid time off after these potentially traumatic events to recover and mourn the child they will not have without the risk of losing their jobs.
- Strengthening the One Day Rest in Seven Act (ODRISA): Under ODRISA, employers must give workers at least 24 hours of uninterrupted rest per calendar week and at least one 20-minute meal period for every 7.5 hours of work unless workers volunteer to work on the seventh day. New laws will make violating ODRISA a civil offense, incentivizing employers to respect workers’ right to rest.
- Widening the definition of protected classes: While Illinois’s Human Rights Act currently follows federal precedent, legislators determined it was ineffective at protecting all workers. The state has revised its definition of race as a protected class to include characteristics such as hair texture and protective hairstyles. Under the revised law, employers will not be able to discriminate against workers due to the texture of their hair, nor will they be permitted to prevent or penalize workers for wearing hairstyles such as braids, locks, or twists.
Pennsylvania hasn’t seen quite the same amount of new legislation, but Philadelphia made an effort. The city signed Ordinance No. 220337 into law, affecting local employers with 50 or more workers. As of December 31st, 2022, all covered employers must provide their workers a mass transit and bicycle commuter benefit program.
The law requires employers to offer at least one of two kinds of benefit programs:
- Elective pre-payroll deductions for mass transit or qualified bicycle expenses at least equal to the maximum deductible amount according to the Internal Revenue Code
- Employer-funded “fare instruments” (tokens, cards, passes, etc.) for mass transit expenses equal to the maximum deductible amount under the Internal Revenue Code
The first option would prevent workers from being required to pay taxes on funds they spend on public transit or commuting by bike. The second would allow people to get to work for free using public transport. Employers may also combine these programs or offer greater benefits than these mandatory minimums.
Stand Up for Your New Rights as a Worker
The expansion of workers’ rights nationwide is good news for employees everywhere. If you live in California, Illinois, or Philadelphia, you may receive new protections in the new year.
Just because these rights are new doesn’t mean they are any less critical than long-standing rights like minimum wage and overtime. If your employer is violating your rights in the workplace, you can and should stand up for yourself. At The Law Offices of Todd M. Friedman, P.C., we have the resources and skills to help you fight for fair, safe, and non-hostile workplaces. Schedule your consultation to learn how our expert employment law attorneys can represent you and help you pursue compensation for your claim.