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New Laws Affecting Employers in 2024

By Geraldine Villa-Hernandez 
Noland, Hamerly, Etienne & Hoss

As published in Salinas Valley Business Journal, December 2023

It is everyone’s favorite time of the year…new laws!  Whether you are a large or small employer, every year, new laws and significant changes to existing regulations may affect your business. This year, employers should be aware of the following changes: 

Minimum Wage Increase 

California’s minimum wage will increase to $16 per hour on January 1, 2024. Since the threshold salary for exempt employees is two times the minimum wage for full-time work, as of January 1, 2024 exempt employees must be paid an annual salary of at least $66,560.  Employers must also determine if the city where their employees are working requires an even higher minimum wage.

California has also passed laws requiring different minimum wages for certain economic sectors.  For example, the Governor signed Assembly Bill (AB) 1228 that sets a $20 minimum wage rate for fast food workers starting on April 1, 2024 with the rate increasing annually until 2029 based on the Consumer Price Index.  Senate Bill (SB) 525 establishes five different minimum wage schedules for covered health care employees depending on how a facility is classified.  These minimum wage rates go into effect on June 1, 2024 and range from $18 per hour to $23 per hour.

Increased Paid Sick Leave (SB 616)

Effective January 1, 2024, the amount of paid sick leave (“PSL”) that California employers must provide employees has expanded from three days to five days per year.  

Under the new law, employers must ensure that employees who have worked in California for the same employer for 30 or more days have no less than five days (40 hours) of accrued PSL by the 200th calendar day of employment or each calendar year.  Additionally, the new law increases the accrual and carryover cap from six days (48 hours) to ten days (80 hours).  Furthermore, employers using a different accrual method than providing one hour of PSL per every 30 hours worked must ensure that employees accrue not only the pre-existing requirement of twenty-four hours of PSL by the 120th calendar day of employment but also forty hours of PSL by the 200th calendar day of employment.  Those employers that provide employees with a lump sum of PSL at the beginning of the year (the frontload method) rather than using the accrual method must provide employees with five days (40 hours) of PSL at the beginning of the year. Employers can still choose how they define the “year” for purposes of the frontload method.

Although the amended paid sick leave law continues to exempt employees covered by collective bargaining agreements that meet certain criteria, it does extend some of its protections to those employees. 

Workplace Violence Prevention Plan (SB 553)

Effective July 1, 2024, employers, which include both private and public entities, must develop and implement a workplace violence prevention plan (“WVPP”) as part of their Injury and Illness Prevention Plan. 

The WVPP should be in writing and available and easily accessible to employees. The plan must include, among other things: (1) person(s) responsible for implementing the plan;
(2) procedures to obtain the active involvement among employees and authorized employee representatives in developing and implementing the plan; (3) methods the employer will use to coordinate implementation of the WVPP with other employers, when applicable, to ensure that those employers and employees understand their respective roles; (4) effective procedures for the employer to accept and respond to reports of workplace violence and to prohibit retaliation against an employee who makes such a report; (5) procedures to ensure compliance by supervisory and nonsupervisory employees; (6) procedures to communicate with employees regarding workplace violence matters including how an employee can report a violent incident, threat, or other workplace violence concern to the employer or law enforcement without fear of reprisal, and how employee concerns will be investigated and how employees will be informed of the results of the investigation and any corrective actions to be taken;; (7) effective procedures to respond to actual or potential workplace violence emergencies; (8) procedures to develop and provide required training; (9) procedures to identify and evaluate workplace violence hazards; (10) procedures to correct workplace violence hazards that are identified and evaluated; (11) procedures for post incident response and investigation; and (12) procedures to review the effectiveness of the plan and revise it as needed.

For every workplace violence incident, covered employers must record information in a “violent incident log.”  The log must include, among others things, (1) date, time, and location of the incident; (2) workplace violence type; (3) detailed description of the incident; (4) classification of who committed the violence, the circumstances at the time of the incident, the location of the incident; (5) the type of incident, including whether it involved physical violence with or without a weapon or object, threats, sexual assault, animal attacks, or a threat of physical force or of the use of a weapon; (6) consequences of the incident, such as whether security or law enforcement was contacted and actions taken to protect employees from continuing threat; and (7) contact information for the individual completing the violent incident log. 

Employers must retain the violent incident log, violence hazard identification, evaluation, and correction records for 5-years for every workplace violence incident.

Reproductive Loss Leave (SB 848)

Effective January 1, 2024, covered employers (those with five or more employees) must provide employees who are employed for at least 30 days with up to five days of unpaid leave following a “reproductive loss event.”  A “reproductive loss event” is defined as “the day or, for a multiple-day event, the final day of a failed adoption, failed surrogacy, miscarriage, stillbirth, or an unsuccessful assisted reproduction.”  

The leave must be taken within three months of the event and is capped at a maximum of twenty days within a 12-month period, and employees must be permitted to take such leave nonconsecutively.  Employees may use vacation, personal leave, accrued sick leave or other paid time off otherwise available.  Employers must maintain the confidentiality of employees requesting this leave and may not retaliate against them for exercising these rights.

Cannabis Use Discrimination (AB 2188)

AB 2188, which Governor Newsom signed in 2022, takes effect January 1, 2024.  This legislation makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against individuals in hiring, termination, or any term or condition of employment, or to otherwise penalize an individual for off-duty cannabis use away from the workplace.  Furthermore, employers may not discriminate based on drug screening results that find an employee to have non-psychoactive cannabis metabolites (that show consumption of cannabis but not impairment) in hair, blood, urine, or other bodily fluids. 

However, an employer does not lose the right to maintain a drug-free and alcohol-free workplace. It may still refuse to hire an applicant based on scientifically valid pre-employment drug screening conducted through methods that do not screen for non-psychoactive cannabis metabolites. 

Recommendations for Employers

This article summarizes only some of the new laws affecting California employers.  To ensure compliance, employers should familiarize themselves with the details of the laws, update policies where appropriate, train supervisors and non-supervisors where necessary, and consult with legal counsel. 

This article is intended to address topics of general interest and should not be construed as legal advice. © 2023 Noland, Hamerly, Etienne & Hoss