As the September 14, 2023, deadline to pass bills during the current session of the California Legislature fast approaches, the California Senate and Assembly are considering several employment law bills. Many are likely to pass. Below is a summary of some of the more significant bills.

Any bills timely passed in both legislative houses will move on to the governor's desk. Governor Newsom will then have until October 14, 2023, to sign the bills into law, approve the bills without signing them, or veto the bills.

Quick Hits

  • California employment-related bills in the current legislative session address paid family leave, sick leave, and reproductive loss leave; the definition of a family caregiver; noncompete clauses; the state's WARN Act; caste discrimination; workplace restraining orders; presumptions of retaliation related to terminations of employment; and the minimum wage for healthcare workers.
  • The legislature has until September 14, 2023, to pass bills, and the governor has until October 14, 2023 to sign or approve legislation without his signature.

AB 518-Expansion of Paid Family Leave Benefits

Under Assembly Bill (AB) 518, employees in California can apply to the state for wage replacement benefits when taking time off for certain family care-related events. The benefit is commonly called "paid family leave." This bill proposes to add benefits for time off to care for a "designated person" who is "the equivalent of a family relationship."

Status: Passed in Assembly, pending in Senate.

AB 524-Family Caregiver Protection

AB 524 would amend the California Fair Employment and Housing Act by prohibiting discrimination against family caregivers. "Family caregiver" means a person who contributes to the care of one or more family members. "Family member" is defined as "a spouse, child, parent, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, domestic partner, or any individual previously identified as a 'designated person.'"

Status: Passed in Assembly, pending in Senate.

AB 1076-Noncompete Clauses

AB 1076 would make it unlawful to include a noncompete clause in a California employment contract. If a California employee has previously signed a noncompete agreement, this bill would also require the employer to notify the employee that the agreement is void.

Status: Passed in Assembly, pending in Senate.

AB 1356-California Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (Cal WARN)

Covered employers must give sixty days' advance notice of a mass layoff, closure, or relocation. AB 1356 would extend the notice period to seventy-five days. The bill would also expand the law to cover businesses with seventy-five employees in any "group of locations" in the state and include certain staffing company employees. It would also prohibit the release of WARN liability in severance agreements.

Status: Passed in Assembly, pending in Senate.

SB 403-Caste Discrimination

Senate Bill (SB) 403 would amend the California Fair Employment and Housing Act to prohibit discrimination against employees based on their caste status. Caste status could include, for example, the caste systems that may affect communities originating from South Asia.

Status: Passed in Senate and Assembly; pending review by the governor.

SB 428-Workplace Restraining Orders

Current law allows employers to seek temporary restraining orders to protect employees against threats of violence. SB 428 would amend that law so that employers may also seek restraining orders to protect employees from harassment.

Status: Passed in Senate and Assembly; in Senate for reconciliation.

SB 497-Presumption of Retaliation

The Labor Code protects employees from retaliation for protesting certain activities. SB 497 would create a presumption of retaliation if an employee is disciplined or discharged within ninety days of the protected activity.

Status: Passed in Senate, pending in Assembly.

SB 525-Healthcare Workers Minimum Wage

SB 525 would require a minimum wage of $21 for workers in the healthcare industry beginning in June 2024, and $25 beginning in June 2025. Furthermore, if this bill passes, exempt employees must be paid no less than 150 percent of the healthcare minimum wage. The bill broadly covers most healthcare operations, but it would not include small independent practices. The law would apply not only to employees who work for a healthcare facility, but also employees of other companies while they perform work that is primarily related to healthcare on the premises of a healthcare facility.

Status: Passed in Senate, pending in Assembly.

SB 553-Workplace Violence Prevention

SB 553 proposes to establish a workplace violence prevention standard applicable to most California employers. Among other requirements, the bill would require employers to implement a written workplace violence prevention plan, record workplace violence incidents, and train employees.

Status: Passed in Senate, pending in Assembly. Will likely require reconciliation in Senate.

SB 616-Paid Sick Leave Expansion

SB 616 proposes to expand the minimum amount of paid sick leave from three days to seven days.

Status: Passed in Senate, pending in Assembly.

SB 699-Noncompete Agreements

SB 699, which the governor has already signed, reinforces the state's law prohibiting noncompete agreements and provides employees with a right to seek injunctive relief and civil penalties if forced to sign such an agreement.

Status: Passed in Senate and Assembly, and signed into law by the governor on September 1, 2023.

SB 700-Marijuana Protections

SB 700 would prohibit employers from asking employees questions about marijuana use. It would also restrict consideration of prior marijuana-related convictions.

Status: Passed in Senate, pending in Assembly.

SB 731-Work From Home Rights

SB 731 would require an employer to give at least thirty days' written notice before requiring an employee who has been allowed to work from home to return to work at the company's premises. The notice would also inform the employee of a right to request working remotely as a reasonable accommodation for a disability.

Status: Passed in Senate, pending in Assembly.

SB 848-Reproductive Loss Leave

SB 848 would entitle employees to take a five-day leave of absence for a reproductive loss, which includes a miscarriage, a failed surrogacy, a stillbirth, an unsuccessful "assisted reproduction" (such as artificial insemination or embryo transfer), or a failed adoption.

Status: Passed in Senate, pending in Assembly.

Ogletree Deakins will continue to monitor developments and will provide updates on the California blog as additional information becomes available.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.