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California Employers Will Continue to Confront a Changing Legal Landscape in 2023 and Beyond

Trinity E. Taylor

The COVID-19 pandemic spurred a vast number of changes to California’s employment laws.  Employers hoping for a reprieve from the rapid pace of change in employment laws will be disappointed that 2023 has been marked as another year of significant change. Below are some of the key laws that take effect in 2023, and beyond.  

SB 1162 – Pay Transparency

With the passage of SB 1162, employers with 15 or more employees must now affirmatively include the pay scale for a position in any job posting and must make the pay scale information available to current employees upon reasonable request.  Employers must also keep records of job titles and wage rate history for each employee three years post-termination.  A failure to comply with this section gives rise to penalties under the Private Attorney’s General Act (“PAGA”).

AB 1949 – Bereavement Leave

AB 1949 now requires employers with five or more employees to provide employees with up to five days of bereavement leave in the event of the death of a spouse, child, parent, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, domestic partner, or parent-in-law.  This bereavement leave may be taken at any time within three months of the date of death, but the employer may request documentation of death within thirty days of the first date of leave.  Whether the leave is paid depends on the employer’s existing bereavement policy.  If the existing policy provides paid bereavement leave of less than five days, then the employee is entitled to the amount of paid leave under the policy with remaining leave to be unpaid with a minimum of five total days of leave (e.g., 3 paid days, 2 unpaid days).  Regardless of the employer’s existing policy, employees may use their accrued paid time off during a bereavement leave period.

AB 257 – The Fast Food Accountability and Standards Recovery Act (FAST Recovery Act)

Under AB 257, a newly created “Fast Food Council” comprised of ten civilians will be tasked with issuing, amending, or appealing any rules and regulations as necessary to carry out its duties.  This includes making laws regarding the wages, conditions of employment, and the health and safety of fast food workers.  The governor selects eight of the Fast Food Council members and appoints the chairperson.  AB 257 will apply to any set of restaurants that have 100 establishments nationwide, even if those establishments are separately owned and operated by “mom and pop” franchise owners.

AB 2188 – No Discrimination for Marijuana Use

Pursuant to AB 2188, it is now unlawful to discriminate against employees or job applicants who engage in off-the-job use of cannabis (also known as marijuana).  While AB 2188 does not permit employees to be “impaired” by cannabis on the job, it will likely create a challenge for employers in determining whether an employee is in fact “impaired” while working.  

SB 951 – Increased Wage Replacement for Paid Family Leave

Effective January 1, 2025, SB 951 will make low-wage workers on a qualified leave of absence eligible for up to 90% wage replacement, if they earn 70% or less of California’s average wage. A qualified leave of absence includes leave under the California Family Rights Act (“CFRA”) and the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”).

SB 1044 – No Adverse Action During State of Emergency

SB 1044 prohibits employers from taking adverse action against an employee who leaves work or fails to report to work, in the event of an emergency condition.  Emergency conditions include disasters or extreme perils to the safety of persons or property caused by natural forces or criminal acts.  An “emergency condition” does not include a health pandemic however.  A failure to comply with this section gives rise to penalties under PAGA.

Minimum Wages

After years of gradually increasing the minimum wage through a staired approach based on employer size, effective January 1, 2023, the state minimum wage for all employees will be $15.50 per hour.  Employers are encouraged to review local city and county minimum wage ordinances, which may provide for a higher minimum wage.  Furthermore, employers should review exempt employees’ salaries to ensure these salaries are no less than two times the state minimum wage (i.e. $64,480).  

From changing standards for fast food employees to non-discriminatory marijuana usage, there is an array of new legislation for the workplace in 2023, but the laws listed above are only some of the new modifications that employers may expect in the new year.  If you have questions about any of these new laws or how they may affect your organization, please consult your attorney.

About the author Trinity E. Taylor

Trinity is a driven, client-focused trial lawyer.