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New California Employment Laws for 2024

Shiraz Simonian Jan. 17, 2024

Employment laws in California continue to evolve on an ongoing basis, and the year 2024 brought in several news laws that are going to be important for employees to know about. Below is a list of helpful new laws which became effective on January 1, 2024.

Increase of Minimum Wage: The California state minimum wage increased to $16.00 per hour for all employers, regardless of the number of employees employed by the employer. Thus, for an employee to be considered an "exempt" employee in California, they must now make an annual salary of $66,560. It is important to note that certain cities within California have their own minimum wage ordinances that may require a higher minimum wage.

Additional Sick Leave Benefits (SB 616): California law requires employers to provide additional sick leave benefits to employees based on one of the following methods:

  1. Lump Sum Method: Employee is entitled to a minimum of 40 hours/five days of paid sick leave upfront, at the beginning of each employment year. Employer is not required to accrue or carry over unused sick leave to the following year; or

  2. Accrual Method: Employee is entitled to accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. Employer must accrue or carry over unused sick leave rom year to year but can implement an 80 hour/10-day accrual cap and can limit the employee's use to 40 hours/five days in each year of employment; or

  3. Alternative Accrual Method: Employer can use an alternative accrual method provided that the accrual is on a regular basis so that employees accrue no less than 40 hours/five days of paid sick leave in each calendar year.

Employee Leave for Reproductive Loss (SB 848): California law requires employers which employee 5 or more employees to provide up to five days of protected leave to an employee who:

  1. Has been employed by the employer for at least 30 days; and

  2. Has suffered a reproductive loss event, such as a failed adoption, failed surrogacy, miscarriage, stillbirth or an unsuccessful assisted reproduction. The five days of leave must be taken within three months of the event, but do not necessarily have to be taken consecutively.

90-Day Rebuttable Presumption for Workplace Retaliation (SB 497): Perhaps one of my favorite new laws to pass, the Equal Pay and Anti-Retaliation Protection Act amends various provisions of California's whistleblower retaliation laws by creating a rebuttable presumption of retaliation in the employee's favor. Under the new law, a presumption of retaliation applies if the employer takes adverse action against an employee (i.e., termination, demotion, etc.) within 90 days of the employee engaging in certain protected activity. The burden then shifts to the employer to show a legitimate, nonretaliatory reason for the alleged retaliation.

  • Example - Employee engages in protected activity by reporting what he/she perceives to be a violation of law to a supervisor on January 5, 2024. Employer terminates employee on March 27, 2024. Since the date of the adverse action (termination) is within 90 days of the employee engaging in protected activity (reporting violation), the new law presumes that the employer retaliated against the employee for reporting the violation, which automatically puts the burden on the employer to show that it terminated the employee for a nonretaliatory reason.

Protection for Marijuana Use Outside of Work (AB 2188/SB 700): California law protects an employee's use of marijuana outside of work. Specifically, the new law prohibits employers from discriminating against applicants or employees for using marijuana off the job and away from the workplace, or from employees who test positive for marijuana. Employers are further prohibited from requesting information from a job applicants relating to their prior marijuana use.

Noncompetition Agreements are Unenforceable (SB 699): Noncompetition agreements, which can be found in a majority of employment agreements and/or severance agreements, have generally been held unenforceable by California courts in the past. This new law doubles down on that mentality by emphasizing that such contracts are void regardless of where and when the contract was signed, in addition to affirmatively prohibiting employers from entering into noncompetition agreements with employees. A new sister law (AB 1076) requires employers to notify current and former employees in writing by February 14, 2024, that any noncompetition clause or agreement already entered into is void.

Shiraz SimonianShiraz Simonian is a Managing Partner at Simonian & Simonian, PLC whose practice focuses exclusively on Employment Law and Personal Injury. He may be contacted at 818-405-0080 ext. 101.