With the start of the 2023 legislative session, California employers face a dynamic set of legal requirements in response to the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the current employment environment. The recent legislative session in California has resulted in the passage of several hundred bills that address concerns about pay equity, discrimination, and industry-specific rights. 

By staying informed on the most recent law updates, California employers can take proactive steps to ensure compliance and protect their business interests. Here are the most important employment law changes that employers need to know for 2023:  


Family and Medical Leave Law Updates 

AB 1949: Bereavement Leave 

Assembly Bill 1949 expands the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) provisions by requiring employers with five or more employees to provide up to five days of unpaid bereavement leave to an employee within three months of the death of a family member. This law aims to support employees in their time of grief by allowing them to take time off to make arrangements without fear of losing their job. This new provision also helps establish a more empathetic and compassionate workplace culture.

AB 1041: Protected Time Off

Assembly Bill 1041 expands the rights of employees in California by updating the definition of “family member” under the CFRA and the state’s Healthy Workplaces Healthy Families Act (HWHFA). This update allows employees to take leave to care for a “designated person” of their choosing rather than just immediate family members. This means that employees will be able to identify a person for whom they want to use leave when requesting unpaid (CFRA) or paid (HWHFA) leave.


Workforce Anti-discrimination Enforcement

AB 2188: Restrictions on Cannabis Testing 

Assembly Bill 2188 prohibits employers from discriminating or taking retaliatory action against an employee’s off-duty use of cannabis. The law extends protection to employees who use cannabis legally in California for medical or recreational purposes, as long as the use does not coincide with working hours. Employers may still conduct drug tests to determine if a worker is either in possession of or under the influence of marijuana but may not “discriminate against a person in hiring termination, or any term of condition of employment” for having “non-psychoactive cannabis metabolites” in their system. 

SB 523: Reproductive Health Rights

Senate Bill 523 amends the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) to prohibit discrimination in the workplace based on an individual’s reproductive health decisions. This includes, but is not limited to, decisions related to contraception, fertility treatment, and pregnancy. The bill also expands the required health plan coverage for contraceptives to ensure that individuals have access to the resources they need to make informed decisions about their reproductive health. 

Individuals who assist those exercising their reproductive rights are protected under Assembly Bill 2223


Safety, Settlement, and Severance Agreements

SB 1044: Non-Retaliation

Senate Bill 1044 aims to protect employees from retaliation in emergencies. The law prohibits employers from taking any adverse action against an employee for refusing to report to work or leaving work during an emergency. Additionally, the law prohibits employers from preventing employees from accessing their mobile devices during an emergency situation. This ensures that employees can make informed decisions regarding their safety without fear of retaliation from their employer. This provision of the bill is intended to promote transparency and accountability in the workplace and to protect employees who come forward with information about illegal or unethical conduct.

AB 2777: Statute of Limitations Extended for Sexual Assault Claims 

Assembly Bill 2777, known as the Sexual Abuse and Cover-Up Accountability Act, extends the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits related to sexual assault and abuse claims to provide survivors with a three-year window to file claims for financial compensation. California Code of Civil Procedure 340.16 makes it so an individual may file a claim for up to 10 years from the last act or attempted act, or within three years from the date they discovered injury or illness as a result of that action. This bill is intended to provide survivors of sexual assault with more time to process their trauma and seek legal recourse.


Data Protection and Privacy Laws

California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA) 

Previously, the Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) has been responsible for granting consumers rights to their personal data being collected and sold. Due to new conditions prompted by the pandemic, new regulations have been set in place that introduces additional enforcement that businesses must adhere to for employee tracking and monitoring. Inspired by the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA) requires that all commercial entities conducting business in CA that manage personally identifiable data protect this information. If you are an employer that monitors employee activity through website or application activity, or social media and internet activity, you will need to reevaluate your methods to ensure that they align with this new law.  

AB 984: Employer Restrictions on Vehicle Tracking 

Assembly Bill 984 protects the privacy and autonomy of employees who use their personal vehicles for work-related purposes. Employers are prohibited from requiring employees to install tracking devices in their personal vehicles without the employees’ express consent. It also limits the amount of data that employers can collect and retain and the purposes for which they can use that data. Additionally, the bill requires employers to inform employees of their rights under the law and provide them with an easy and transparent process for opting out of vehicle tracking. 


COVID-19 Related Laws

AB 1751: Covid-19 Workers’ Compensation Presumption 

If an employee contracts COVID-19 and can show that they were likely exposed to the virus while on the job, the employer will be considered responsible for the illness. Assembly Bill 1751 extends the current presumption that an employee’s illness caused by COVID-19 was contracted while on the job, allowing them to claim workers’ compensation benefits. The bill is intended to provide financial and medical support to employees who the pandemic has impacted and to protect them from financial burden and job loss caused by COVID-19-related illness.

AB 2693: Clarification of Employers’ COVID-19 Workplace Exposure Notification Requirements

Assembly Bill 2693 amends the California Labor Code section 6409.6 to clarify the duties of employers when notified of potential exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace and extends the provisions of the labor code until January 1, 2024. Previously, employers were required to provide written notice of potential COVID-19 exposure within one business day to all employees that may have been exposed. With this updated revision, employers may choose to prominently display notice of exposure in the workplace. The notice must include (1) the dates on which an employee with a confirmed case of COVID-19 was on the premises, (2) the location of the exposure, (3) contact information to access information on COVID-19 related benefits, and (4) contact information to verify an employer’s plan for cleaning and disinfection. 


Employee Wage Laws

SB 1162: Wage Transparency 

Senate Bill 1162 aims to promote pay equity and fair compensation in the workplace. Employers with 100 or more contracted employees are now required to submit annual pay data reports that detail the wages and compensation of those contracted workers. This information will be used to identify and address any disparities in pay based on factors such as race, gender, and age. Additionally, the bill requires employers with 15 or more employees to include the pay scale for a position in all job advertisements in California. This provision aims to increase transparency and reduce the potential for discrimination in the hiring process.

SB 3: California Minimum Wage

Senate Bill 3, also known as the Minimum Wage Increase Act, raises the minimum wage in California to $15.50 per hour for all employers, regardless of the size of their business. This bill is a significant change from the previous system, which set different minimum wage requirements for employers based on their size. This new law will apply to all employers operating in California, with the exception of some local cities and counties that have established higher minimum wage rates. The bill is intended to help low-income workers by raising their wages and increasing their purchasing power, which will also help to stimulate economic growth and reduce poverty in the state.

SB 1126: Expansion of CA’s State-Run Retirement Program

Senate Bill 1126 aims to provide more retirement savings options for California’s private-sector workers. The bill expands the California Secure Choice Retirement Savings Program, which is currently only available to specific employers, to all private-sector employers that do not already offer a retirement plan. Under the bill, employers will be required to automatically enroll their employees in the state-run program, although employees can opt-out. The bill also includes provisions to ensure the program is financially stable, such as setting contribution limits and requiring the program to have a reserve fund.


Industry-Specific Measures

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

Assembly Bill 257, known as the FAST Recovery Act, is intended to improve health and safety standards in California’s fast food industry. Employers at fast food restaurants are now required to implement several measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including increased cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces, enhanced employee training on infection control, and increased access to personal protective equipment for workers. These employers will also need to provide paid sick leave to employees forced to stay home due to COVID-19. 

SB 1334: Meal and Rest Periods for Public Sector Hospital Employees 

Senate Bill 1334 ensures that public sector hospital employees are given adequate time for breaks and meals throughout their shifts. The bill amends existing labor laws to require employees working in public sector hospitals to be provided at least one 30-minute meal period and one 10-minute rest period for every four hours worked. Additionally, the bill provides that employees who work shifts of more than six hours but less than 12 hours must be given two meal periods, one of which must be a 30-minute meal period. 

AB 2183: Union Elections for Agricultural Laborers 

Assembly Bill 2183 gives agricultural laborers in California the right to form and join labor unions. Under this new law, the definition of “employee” under the Agricultural Labor Relations Act now includes all agricultural laborers, including those who are currently classified as independent contractors. This will allow workers in the agricultural industry to participate in union elections and collectively bargain for better wages, benefits, and working conditions. The bill also includes measures to protect agricultural laborers’ rights and prevent retaliation against those who choose to unionize. 

AB 1601: Coverage for Call-Center Employee Relocation 

Assembly Bill 1601 protects the rights of call-center employees who are required to relocate by their employer. Employers must provide certain forms of compensation, such as relocation assistance and reimbursement for certain expenses, to employees who are forced to relocate as a result of their job. Additionally, the bill requires employers to provide notice to employees at least 90 days before the requested relocation and to offer assistance in finding new employment for those who are unable or unwilling to relocate. 


Key Takeaways

The California legislature is placing increasing emphasis on employment relationships and regulations in 2023. To safeguard both themselves and their employees, and to ensure compliance, employers should not only review but have a clear understanding of these new employment laws in effect. If you have any concerns about any of the above legal requirements or have further questions, the Hackler Flynn & Associates team is here to advise. Contact us today. 

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. Hackler Flynn & Associates is only licensed to practice in California.

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