As each year passes, employment laws in California are constantly changing, and recent legal changes that took effect January 1, 2024, have introduced significant modifications that will impact employers. From cannabis protections to workplace violence to NDA agreements, now is the perfect time for California employers to set the tone for the year, stay informed about these changes, and take the necessary actions to not only ensure compliance, but maintain a healthy workplace environment. Let’s take a dive into the key 2024 legal updates and their implications as they relate to California employment.

New Cannabis Protections

Since January 1, 2024, California employers cannot discriminate against an applicant or employee who has engaged in the lawful use of marijuana outside of work. It is also important to note that these protections apply to employers of all sizes.

First, the AB 2188 law makes it unlawful for employers to discriminate against employees and applicants simply because they have engaged in the off-duty use of marijuana, unless the individual falls into one of the few exempted roles. It is also unlawful for an employer to discriminate against employees and applicants on the basis of a drug test that measures “nonpsychoactive cannabis metabolites.”

Second, the SB 700 law prohibits employers from asking job applicants about cannabis use, including in job applications or interviews. Also, information received about the applicant’s cannabis use from criminal history is off limits unless the employer is specifically allowed to consider it under the Fair Chance Act.

Reproductive Leave Loss for Employees

Eligible employees will be allowed to take 5 days of unpaid leave following a “reproductive loss event.” Employees experiencing a reproductive loss and wishing to take leave must be employed by an employer with at least 5 employees for at least 30 days prior to commencement of the leave.

Non-Compete Agreement Void Notifications

AB 1076 requires that by February 14, 2024, employers to notify current employees and former employees (employed after January 1, 2022), that any noncompete agreements they may have signed are now void under California law.

Injury and Illness Prevention Program & Workplace Violence Prevention Plan

All IIPPs must be revised to take into account the 2023 Covid regulations. This means revising existing programs to align with new health guidelines, risk mitigation strategies, and response plans specific to the pandemic. Employers are required to continually assess and update their IIPPs to reflect these changes, ensuring their strategies are as effective and current as possible.

By July 1, 2024, Employers must also develop a Workplace Violence Prevention Plan covering specific topics. It’s not just about having a WVPP in place; employers must actively implement these plans and conduct comprehensive training for their employees. This is a vital step towards minimizing the risk of workplace violence and creating a safer, more secure work environment.

CalSavers Retirement Plan Planning Reminder

Back on June 30, 2022, employers with 5 or more employees had to enroll in the CalSavers Retirement Savings Plan if they did not provide a privately owned plan. Effective December 31, 2025, employers with at least 1 employee that do not provide a privately sponsored plan must register for CalSavers.

Paid Sick Leave Expansion

Effective January 1, 2024, the number of paid sick leave hours (or days) employers must provide employees will be increased to 40 hours (5 days). The law applies to employers with at least 1 employee.

Employers may front load sick time, or may use an approved accrual method.  Under the standard accrual method, sick time must accrue at no less than one hour for every thirty hours worked.  Whether under the standard accrual or an alternate accrual method, an employee must have accrued no fewer than 24 hours of sick leave by their 120th calendar day of work in a year and no fewer than 40 hours of sick leave by their 200th calendar day of sick leave in a year.

Severance Agreements

Severance agreement clauses must now specifically focus on preventing the employee from making harmful statements that could damage the employer’s business reputation. It’s essential that the clause is carefully worded to protect the employer’s interests without overly restricting the former employee’s freedom of speech.

Non-Disclosure Agreements

Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) and non-solicit clauses are vital for protecting a company’s confidential information and business interests. In these agreements, it should specifically be restricted to using the employer’s confidential information for soliciting the company’s clients and/or employees. This will ensure that the departing employee does not misuse sensitive information to gain a competitive advantage.

Federal Laws

Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA)

Effective June 27, 2023, employers with 15 or more employees must provide reasonable workplace accommodations to workers with known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth or related conditions. This act also states that employers are not permitted to impose accommodations on an employee without a prior discussion between the employer and the employee. Furthermore, the act prohibits employers from denying employment to a qualified individual based on their need for reasonable accommodations.

PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act

The Act covers employers with 50 or more employees and requires such employers to provide a reasonable break time for an employee needing to express milk for that employee’s nursing child for 1 year after the child’s birth each time the employee needs to express milk. If you are an employer with fewer than 50 employees, this means you will only be exempt from the requirements of the Act if the Act’s requirements would impose an undue hardship on said employer or cause significant expense.

Conclusion

These changes reflect California’s commitment to creating a more inclusive, fair, and healthy working environment. As employers, it’s imperative to understand and implement these laws to not only comply with legal standards but also to support and respect the rights of your employees. Staying informed and adapting to these changes is key to maintaining a positive and lawful workplace. If you are in need of assistance or have questions about any 2024 California employment law updates, please contact Hackler Flynn & Associates.

DISCLAIMER: Content within this post should not be considered legal advice and is for informational purposes only. Communications made through this post do not create an attorney-client relationship. Hackler Flynn & Associates is not responsible for any content that you may access from third-party resources that may be accessed through or linked to this post.

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