California’s 2024 Labor and Employment Law Updates

By: Caleb Miller, Esq.

Rise in Minimum Wage and Exempt Employee Salaries: Starting January 1, 2024, California’s minimum wage will be $16 per hour for all businesses, irrespective of the number of employees. Additionally, the minimum yearly salary for exempt employees will now be $66,560. It’s important to note that various localities in California have implemented “living wage ordinances,” so it’s crucial to verify local wage standards for full compliance. For exempt computer professionals, the minimum is set at $55.58 per hour or an annual salary of $115,763.35. Fast food and healthcare facility employers should prepare for wage increases on April 1 and June 1, 2024, respectively. Certain industries have a separate minimum wage and it is important to consult a professional regarding the minimum wage requirements for your practice.

Enhancements to Paid Sick Leave (SB 616): SB 616 marks a significant expansion in paid sick leave since the introduction of the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act in 2014. Employers now have the option to either provide 40 hours/five days of paid sick leave upfront each year or accrue one hour of leave per 30 hours worked, with new accrual and usage caps. The differences in accrual and frontloading can modify the cap placed on sick leave and it is important to consult an employment attorney to understand your options.

New Leave Rights for Reproductive Loss (SB 848): Employers with five or more employees must now grant up to five days of leave for employees suffering from reproductive loss, with provisions for additional leave in certain circumstances. This leave is protected, and employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who utilize it. This includes leave for miscarriages and stillborns.

California’s Stance on Noncompetition Agreements (SB 699/AB 1076): Reflecting California’s strong stance on employee mobility, SB 699 and AB 1076 reinforce the prohibition of noncompetition agreements, making them unenforceable regardless of where or when they were signed. Employers must also inform current and former employees that any such agreements are void.

Protection for Off-Site Marijuana Use (AB 2188/SB 700): These amendments to the Fair Employment and Housing Act protect employees’ off-site, off-duty marijuana use, barring discrimination based on cannabis use or the presence of non-psychoactive cannabis metabolites in drug tests. However, certain exceptions apply, and employers retain the right to maintain a drug-free workplace.

Workplace Violence Prevention Plan Requirement (SB 553): By July 1, 2024, most California employers must develop and implement a comprehensive workplace violence prevention plan, with specific requirements outlined in the new law. The State of California has agreed to create guidance on what this plan should include by May 31, 2024.

New Presumption in Workplace Retaliation Claims (SB 497): SB 497 introduces a rebuttable presumption in favor of employees in retaliation claims, shifting the burden of proof to employers in certain circumstances.