New California Laws for 2023 and Beyond: What Employers Should Know

In 2022, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed many laws impacting California employers. Some of the new laws became effective immediately and others, including some that were signed into law just weeks ago, take effect January 1, 2023, or later. These new laws address several topics, including supplemental paid sick leave, pay transparency, leaves of absence and fast-food restaurant employment standards.

As a reminder, the minimum wage in California is increasing to $15.50 per hour on January 1, 2023, for all employers — regardless of the number of workers employed by an employer. Also, many cities and local governments in California have enacted minimum wage ordinances exceeding the state minimum wage.

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California Supreme Court: Unpaid Meal and Rest Period Premiums Can Lead to Wage Statement and Waiting Time Penalties

On May 23, 2022, the California Supreme Court ruled in Naranjo v. Spectrum Security Services, Inc. that unpaid meal and rest period premiums can form the basis of claims for wage statement violations under California Labor Code section 226 and waiting time penalties under California Labor Code section 203.  This is yet another significant decision by the Supreme Court impacting California employers in California particularly since the Court overruled the Court of Appeal, which had held that meal and rest period premiums are not “wages” and therefore cannot lead to wage statement or waiting time penalties.

Background

California law generally requires that employers provide non-exempt employees a reasonable opportunity to take an unpaid, off-duty and uninterrupted meal period of at least 30 minutes before the end of their fifth hour of work, and a second meal period before the end of their tenth hour of work.  Employers also generally must provide 10-minute uninterrupted, paid rest periods to non-exempt employees for every four hours worked (or major fraction thereof).  If an employer does not provide a compliant meal or rest period, the employee in question is entitled to payment of one hour of wages at the employee’s regular rate of pay.  That extra hour of pay is often referred to as a meal or rest period “premium.”

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Summary of Cal/OSHA’s Revised COVID-19 ETS Adopted on April 21, 2022

On April 21, 2022, the California Occupational Safety & Health Standards (Cal/OSHA) Board voted to readopt its COVID-19 prevention emergency temporary standards (ETS) incorporating changes Cal/OSHA posted in preparation of its business meeting on April 21, 2022. If approved by the Office of Administrative Law (which is expected), the revised ETS will become effective upon filing by the Office of Administrative Law with the Secretary of State. This is the third readoption of the ETS, which was authorized by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Executive Order and will be in place until December 31, 2022.

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New Law Prohibiting the Mandatory Arbitration of Sexual Harassment and Assault Claims Goes Into Effect

On March 3, 2022, President Joe Biden signed the “Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act of 2021” (the Act) into law. Upon signing the bill, which had bipartisan Congressional support, President Biden proclaimed, “[w]hen it comes to sexual harassment and assault, forced arbitration shielded perpetrators, silenced survivors, enabled employers to sweep episodes of sexual assault harassment under the rug and it kept survivors from knowing if others have experienced the same thing in the same workplace, at the hands of the same person.”

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Summary of New California COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave – What Employers Need to Know

On February 9, 2022, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 114, which provides COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave (SPSL) for covered employees who are unable to work or telework due to COVID-19 related reasons from January 1, 2022 through September 30, 2022. SB 114 is nearly identical to Assembly Bill 84 (AB) which was passed by the California Legislature on February 7, 2022. SB 114 takes effect on February 19, 2022, (10 days after the bill is signed by Gov. Newsom) and adds Sections 248.6 and 248.7 to the California Labor Code.

Among other things, SB 114:

  • Applies to employers with more than 25 employees.
  • Establishes a new bank of COVID-19 related SPSL.
  • Broadens the reasons employees can take COVID-19 SPSL
  • Permits employers to request proof of a positive COVID-19 test as to the employee or the employee’s family member.
  • Requires retroactive payment if an employee would have been eligible for SPSL since January 1, 2022.
  • Will remain in effect until September 30, 2022.

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Summary of Cal/OSHA’s Revised COVID-19 ETS Adopted on December 16, 2021

On December 16, 2021, the California Occupational Safety & Health Standards (Cal/OSHA) Board voted to re-adopt its COVID-19 prevention emergency temporary standards (ETS) incorporating changes Cal/OSHA posted in preparation of its business meeting on December 16, 2021. If approved by the Office of Administrative Law (which is expected), the revised ETS will take effect on January 14, 2022 and will expire on April 14, 2022.

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