We have already covered two of the most significant new laws for CA employers that are going into effect January 1, 2023, in separate articles. Unfortunately, that’s not all. Here is a brief review of some more laws California employers must be ready to implement in their practices and policies.
Minimum Wage/Salary Requirement Increases
All employers (regardless of the number of employees) are subject California’s minimum hourly wage increase to $15.50, which results in minimum annual salary increase for exempt employees to $64,480. However, employers still need to check local municipality requirements, which may require higher minimum wages.
Unpaid Bereavement Leave
This new law amends the California Fair Employment and Housing Act to allow eligible employees (i.e., those who have worked for at least 30 days for their employer) to take up to five days off from work as bereavement leave for the death of a qualifying family member (includes the employee’s spouse/domestic partner, parent, parent in-law, grandparent, grandchild, child, or sibling) so long as the leave is taken with three months of the death. The bereavement leave days need not be taken all at once. If the employer does not have a paid leave policy, the leave may be unpaid, but employees are entitled to apply any unused paid vacation time, unused paid personal leave or unused paid sick leave time towards their bereavement leave. This law could also apply to leave needed due to miscarriage or stillbirth. Employers may require employees to provide documentation of the death of a family member within 30 days of the first day of leave (for example, a death certificate or published obituary) which are to be treated and maintained as confidential records of the employee.
Leave to Care for a Designated Person
This new law effectively expands the California Family Rights Act (“CFRA”) to allow an employee to select a “designated person,” defined as “any individual related by blood or whose association with the employee is the equivalent of a family member” for whom the employee may take caregiver job-protected leave. The designated person may be identified at the time leave is requested. This new law also now expands the Healthy Workplaces Healthy Families Act (“HWHFA”) to extend to the care of a “designated person” which is more broadly defined to be “a person identified by the employee at the time the employee requests paid sick days” and which need not be a family member or blood relative. As applied to CFRA and HWHFA, the employer may limit the designation to one person per 12-month period of time. Further, due to the expanded definition of a designated person under CFRA. Leave provisions under CFRA and the Federal Family Medical Leave may NOT run concurrent in all situations going forward. An employee could take FMLA and then CFRA subsequently.
No Discrimination Based on “Reproductive Health Decision-Making”
Starting January 1, 2023, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act is amended by adding a new protected category: “reproductive health decision-making” which includes without limitation, a decision to use a particular drug, device, product or service for reproductive health (including contraception or abortion) and which prohibits an employer from requiring an employee to disclose his or her decision-making in this regard. This law also provides that, starting January 1, 2024, health care plans provide coverage for contraceptives, vasectomies, and related services. (SB 523)
No Adverse Action During Emergency
No California employer may take an adverse action against an employee for refusing to come to work or leaving work or using their mobile device for emergency purposes if the employee has a reasonable belief that the workplace is not safe. The qualifying “emergency” includes a condition of disaster or extreme peril to safety of persons or property due to natural forces, a criminal act or an order to evacuate either, at the workplace, an employee’s home, or their child’s school. It does not apply to a health pandemic. The new law does not apply to first responders, disaster or emergency services workers, heath care workers who provide direct patient care, employees working at nuclear reactors, in the defense industry, or on military bases.
Extension of Workers’ Compensation Rebuttable Presumption
Under current law, there is a rebuttable presumption that an employee’s illness resulting from COVID-19 was sustained during the course of employment for workers’ compensation purposes. This rebuttable presumption is extended through January 1, 2024. (AB 1751)
Notice of Covid-19 Exposure
Through January 1, 2024, this new law amends Labor Code Section 6409.6 by requiring employers to provide written notification or prominently display a notice, for 15 days, that includes the dates when an employee, confirmed with COVID-19, was on the worksite premises within the infectious period and the location of the exposure. The employer must keep a log of all the dates the notice was posted and permit the Labor Commissioner to access those records.
Human Trafficking Notice
This new law requires hair, nail, electrolysis, skin care, and related businesses to post a notice containing information about slavery and human trafficking, including information regarding support services. Otherwise, the businesses are liable for civil penalties of $500/1,000.
Employers are encouraged to update their policies and procedures and take all steps
necessary to ensure that they are implemented in time to face the challenges that lie
ahead in 2023 and beyond.