Roll With the Punches

By: David B. Nusz

I boxed for many years. An important aspect of boxing defense is the skill of rolling with the punches. Sometimes you can see a punch coming that you know you won’t be able to completely evade in which case you have basically two options. You can be still and absorb the full force of impact. Or you can try and move the same direction the punch is moving. In essence, getting a quick head start and mitigating the force of the eventual impact. If you have or manage employees in California, you know all too well perfect compliance with employment laws is a constantly moving target with important changes occurring weekly in the courts. One inevitable season of change is the end of the CA Legislature’s annual session at which point there are always new laws which are scheduled to take effect the following January 1st. While I would love to have the luxury of leaving you at peaceful human resources slumber with the quickly approaching holiday season, it is my intention to provide you with advance warning of some important changes to allow you enough time to “roll with” (prepare for) the coming changes to mitigate the force of impact. Plaintiff attorneys are salivating at a new season of opportunity to take advantage of the unwary.

This isn’t intended to be legal advice, a comprehensive list and/or discussion. But, I am always available for specific assistance. You can reach me at Start rolling. Here come the punches. These are a few I think are very important to be aware of.

Paid Sick Pay SB 616:
As of January 1. 2024 CA employers are required to provide one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, or if calculated differently at least 24 hours of paid leave within 120 days of employment and at least 40 hours within 200 days. This basically adds an additional 2 days to the current 3 (32 hours) for a total of 5 days a year. Remember this is a piece of information that is required on the pay stubs/wage statements. Errors in updating these documents based on new law will be easy targets for PAGA litigation. Many of you also have separate written sick leave policies in your handbooks which need to be updated.

CA Minimum Wage Increase:
There are municipalities and now industries that have their own minimum wage. There is also a Federal minimum wage. Always check to ensure there isn’t a different one that applies to your business or client. Generally, you are obligated to pay the highest minimum wage rate that governs you. For the vast number of employers in the State, that is the CA minimum wage which is going up to $16.00/hr. 1/1/2024. Keep in mind this will also impact the minimum salary for the CA white collar exemptions. To potentially qualify for any of the designated white-collar exemptions, an employee must earn a salary equal to at least two times the CA minimum wage which will now be $66,560.00 as of 2024.

Criminal Background Information Protocols:
This one is now in effect as of October 1, 2023. Unless an employer is required by law to conduct criminal background checks, prior to extending a conditional job offer you can’t inquire about criminal history through job applications, background checks, or internet searches, or include statements in job advertisements, postings, or applications, that persons with criminal history will not be considered for hire. Once a conditional job offer is extended, if the employer in good faith believes a criminal background investigation is appropriate it can be conducted within the restrictions already in place before this change. However, if an employer intends to withdraw the conditional offer of employment based on the results of the criminal background investigation, the employer must conduct an individualized assessment of whether the applicant’s conviction history has a direct and adverse relationship with the specific duties of the job that justify denying employment. Finally, if after the required “individual assessment” the employer still intends to withdraw the offer, the applicant must 1st be advised in advance in writing what conviction information is being used as a basis for withdrawing the offer with the ability and so far unspecified amount of time to respond with relevant information and documents to establish the results of the investigation are inaccurate or there is other potentially relevant information.

New Cal/OSHA Indoor Heat Rules:
CA already has heat safety rules for outdoor workers. As temperatures have climbed and are widely expected to continue doing so, there is greater concern for the safety of indoor workers. In response Cal/OSHA has proposed new rules that will likely take effect early 2024 and apply where the temperature is at least 87 degrees, the heat index is at least 87 degrees, employees wear clothing that restricts heat removal and the temperature is at least 82 degrees, or employees work in high radiant heat area and the temperature is at least 82 degrees. In any of these circumstances, employers are required to measure and record temperatures, provide access to no cost, cool, drinkable fresh water, and cool down areas.