California's Employment Laws in 2024: What You Need to Know

October 30, 2023

California has long been a trailblazer when it comes to employment laws, and 2024 is no exception. With a slate of new legislation aimed at enhancing employee rights and promoting workplace safety, the Golden State continues to set the bar for labor standards. In this blogpost, we'll take a closer look at some of the key laws that took effect in 2024and what they mean for both employers and employees.


**1. SB 699 and AB 1076: Noncompete Agreements**


Effective from January 1, 2024, SB 699 and AB1076 collectively signal a significant shift in California's stance on noncompete agreements. SB 699 prohibits employers from using or enforcing noncompete agreements, regardless of when they were signed. Employees who are compelled to sign such agreements now have legal remedies available, including injunctive relief or damages. AB 1076 takes it a step further by making noncompete agreements unlawful in employment contracts, both past and future, requiring employers to inform employees of the voiding of any previously signed noncompete agreements. These bills reinforce the state's commitment to promoting employee mobility and opportunity.


**2. SB 553: Workplace Violence Prevention Plans**


Starting from July 1, 2024, employers in California will be required to establish workplace violence prevention plans as part of their injury prevention programs. These plans will include the duty to maintain a log of workplace violence incidents, provide training on the plan, and keep records. This legislation is a crucial step toward creating safer work environments for all employees.


**3. SB 848: Leave for Reproductive Loss**


SB 848 is a compassionate response to reproductive loss events like miscarriages, IVF failures, or failed adoptions. This law grants employees up to five days of leave for such events. Importantly, employers cannot deny this leave request, and it must be taken within three months of the event, with a maximum of 20 days allowed in a year. While the leave can be unpaid, employees can use other available paid leave balances if they have them. This law recognizes the emotional toll of reproductive loss and provides necessary support for affected individuals.


**4. AB 594: Public Prosecution for Wage Theft/Labor Code Violations**


AB 594 empowers public prosecutors to pursue legal actions, both civil and criminal, for Labor Code violations. This expansion of authority extends beyond the Labor Commissioner, who traditionally handles employee complaints about wages and employment matters. This law strengthens enforcement and adds an extra layer of protection for workers.


**5. SB 497: Rebuttable Presumption of Retaliation**


SB 497 modifies the California Labor Code to establish a rebuttable presumption of retaliation. If an employer disciplines or takes adverse action against an employee within 90 days of the employee engaging in protected activities, such as discussing wages or supporting the rights of other employees, it is presumed to be retaliation. This change offers greater protection to employees who exercise their rights and speak up about workplace issues.


**6. AB 1356: Cal-WARN Act Expansion**


AB 1356 enhances the California Worker Adjustment and Retraining Act by requiring covered employers to give 75 days' notice instead of the previous 60 days for mass layoffs, closures, or relocations. The bill also broadens the definition of a "covered establishment" to include single or grouped locations with 75 or more employees. Importantly, it prohibits employers from using severance agreements to waive employees' rights under this Act, ensuring that employees receive adequate notice and support during significant workplace changes.


**7. AB 1228: Fast Food Franchisor Responsibility Act**


AB 1228 is a significant development in the fast-food industry. It increases the minimum wage for fast-food workers to $20per hour as of April 1, 2024, and establishes the Fast Food Council. This legislation aims to improve wages and working conditions for fast-food employees, addressing concerns about income inequality in the industry.


**8. Senate Bill 616: Paid Sick Leave Expansion**


Beginning January 1, 2024, employers in California will be required to provide employees with up to five days or 40hours of paid sick leave per year. Employers can control the amount used per year at five days or 40 hours and cap accrual at 10 days or 80 hours. This expansion of paid sick leave ensures that workers can take time off when they're unwell or need to care for a sick family member without the worry of lost wages.


**9. AB 12: Renter Security Deposits**


Beginning July 1, 2024, this bill will prohibit a landlord from demanding or receiving security for a rental agreement for residential property in an amount or value in excess of an amount equal to one month’s rent, regardless of whether the residential property is unfurnished or furnished, in addition to any rent for the first month paid on or before initial occupancy.



**Additional Changes**


Several other changes take effect in California in 2024, including a minimum wage increase for healthcare workers(SB 525), changes in litigation proceedings during arbitration appeals (SB365), and a minimum wage increase within the City of San Diego (local ordinance).


As these laws come into effect, it's essential for both employers and employees to stay informed and comply with the new regulations. California's commitment to protecting workers' rights, promoting workplace safety, and addressing labor-related issues is evident in these legislative changes, making it a progressive and employee-friendly state.


In conclusion, these new laws represent a significant step forward in protecting the rights and well-being of employees in California. Employers and employees alike should take the time to understand these changes and ensure they are in compliance to create a fair and safe working environment for all.