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2023 California Employment Law Update

2023 California Employment Law Update
The California Legislature finished up its legislative session with a rush of activity, ultimately sending hundreds of bills to the governor, who, as usual, signed many labor and employment bills that will impact employers in the new year.
CalChamber has provided a free white paper detailing these laws, which can be downloaded at https://hrcalifornia.calchamber.com/overview/new-2023-california-employment-laws.  A summary of some of the law updates can be found below. Unless otherwise noted, all laws take effect January 1, 2023.

Leaves of Absence
AB 1041 expands who an employee can care for under both the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) and California’s paid sick leave law, the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act (HWHFA). Currently, both laws allow employees to take leave to care for a spouse, registered domestic partner, child, parent, parent-in-law, grandparent, grandchild and sibling. Beginning January 1, 2023, employees can also take CFRA leave or paid sick leave to care for a “designated person.” For the CFRA, the law defines designated person as “any individual related by blood or whose association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship. The designated person may be identified by the employee at the time the employee requests the leave.” For the HWHFA, the Labor Code was amended to define designated person more broadly as “a person identified by the employee at the time the employee requests paid sick days.” In both instances, an employer may limit an employee to one “designated person” per 12-month period.
AB 1949 makes bereavement leave a protected leave of absence. The law applies to all private-sector employers with five or more employees and all public-sector employers. It allows employees to take up to five days of bereavement leave upon the death of a family member, defined as including a spouse, child, parent, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, domestic partner or parent-in-law. To be eligible for bereavement leave, the person must be employed by the employer for at least 30 days prior to starting the leave. Bereavement leave may be unpaid, but employees can use existing leave available to the employee (e.g., vacation, paid time off [PTO], sick leave, etc.). Employers can require documentation to support the leave, which may include a death certificate; a published obituary; or a verification of death, burial or memorial services from a mortuary, funeral home, burial society, crematorium, religious institution or government agency. Leave must be completed within three months of the family member’s death.

Discrimination
Two new laws will expand the scope of California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA):
AB 2188 adds cannabis protection to the state’s discrimination law. Specifically, employers will be prohibited from discriminating against an employee or job applicant based on the person’s use of cannabis off the job and away from the workplace. Importantly, AB 2188 doesn’t go into effect until January 1, 2024.
SB 523 amends the FEHA to make it unlawful to discriminate against an employee or job applicant based on their “reproductive health decision-making,” which includes, but is not limited to, a decision to use or access a particular drug, device, product or medical service for reproductive health.

Pay Scales and Pay Data
SB 1162 requires employers to make pay scale information available to job applicants and employees, and expands California’s pay data reporting requirements. Under the new law, employers must, upon request, provide a pay scale to an employee for the position the employee is working. Additionally, employers with 15 or more employees must include the pay scale information for a position in any job posting. If an employer uses a third party to “announce, post, publish or otherwise make known a job posting,” the employer must provide the pay scale to the third party, who must include it in the job posting.
Employers must maintain records of job titles and wage rate histories for each employee for the duration of their employment plus three years after their employment ends so the California Labor Commissioner can determine if there are any wage discrepancies. Employers that don’t comply with the new pay scale requirements could be subject to civil penalties from the California Labor Commissioner, which range from $100 to $10,000.
SB 1162 also revises and expands California’s pay data reporting requirements for employers with 100 or more employees.
Lastly, SB 1162 changed the pay data report due date to the second Wednesday of May, annually. The first report under the new requirements will be due May 10, 2023.

COVID-19-Related Laws
AB 2693 made several helpful changes to the state’s COVID-19 notice requirements. The 2020 law required employers to provide notice to their employees when there’s a potential COVID-19 exposure at the worksite and report cases to local health departments under certain conditions. Among other things, the revisions allow an employer to satisfy the notice requirements by prominently displaying a notice of the potential exposure in the workplace. AB 2693 also removes the requirement that employers report cases to their local health departments.
The new year may also see a new version of the Cal/OSHA COVID-19 regulation. As previously reported, the current COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) will expire at the end of the year. Cal/OSHA is considering a new “permanent” COVID-19 regulation with some significant changes from the ETS. The Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board is expected to vote on the regulation in November or December of this year.

Paid Family Leave
SB 951 extends the current wage replacement rates for California’s Paid Family Leave (PFL) and State Disability Insurance (SDI) programs, which were scheduled to sunset at the end of 2023, and sets up an increase in PFL and SDI rates beginning in 2025. Currently, employees are eligible for up to 70 percent of their regular wages under the program, depending on their earnings. Beginning in 2025, wage replacement rates under these programs will increase to 90 percent.
Additionally, California has started a PFL grant program geared toward helping small businesses offset the increased costs that may arise when an employee is out on leave. Eligible business can receive up to $2,000. The grant period ends on May 31, 2024, or when funds run out.

CalSavers Retirement Savings Program
California revised its CalSavers Retirement Savings Program (CalSavers) with SB 1126, which expands the definition of “eligible employer” to a person or entity with at least one employee, down from five. The law, however, specifically excludes from the definition sole proprietorships, self-employed individuals or other business entities that don’t employ individuals beyond the owners. The bill requires eligible employers that don’t offer their own employer-sponsored retirement savings program to employees to have a payroll deposit retirement savings arrangement by December 31, 2025, so employees can participate in CalSavers.

This summary of the 2023 California Employment Law updates was taken from a White Paper published by CalChamber. The full White Paper, including additional details and law updates, can be downloaded at https://hrcalifornia.calchamber.com/overview/new-2023-california-employment-laws.

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