A 20,000-Foot View of California Employment Law Changes


The 2023-2024 session of the California Legislature has produced a batch of new labor and employment laws and amendments to existing laws.  California employers need to be aware of these changes and begin planning to ensure compliance with an array of new regulations and requirements.  To that end, this newsletter provides an overview of California employment law changes, many of which go into effect in 2024.    

Employers Should Prepare for Upcoming California Employment Law Changes

While some legislation related to California labor and employment laws did not make it past Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk, many bills impacting employers have been signed by the Governor.  These laws will affect employers in areas related to noncompete agreements, expansion of benefits, wage increases and workplace injury prevention programs, among others.

This overview aims to make employers aware of important California employment law changes.  To review how these laws may impact your business, contact Susan A. Rodriguez, an experienced Southern California employer attorney at The Law Offices of Susan A. Rodriguez, APC.

Additional Restrictions on Noncompete Agreements

Senate Bill (SB) 699 and Assembly Bill (AB) 1076 introduce and codify additional restrictions related to noncompete contracts and clauses, which are already widely prohibited in California.

Effective January 1, 2024, SB 699 expands the state’s ban on the use of noncompete agreements and clauses by California employers to include contracts signed in other states, even when an employee does not work in California.  The bill makes entering into an agreement against the provisions of the law a civil violation, allowing for injunctive relief for employees as well as actual damages, attorney’s fees and related costs.

AB 1076 codifies the legal precedent set in Edwards v. Arthur Andersen LLP (2008) 44 Cal.4th 937.  The law affirms that a contract that restricts a person from “engaging in a lawful profession, trade, or business of any kind, except as otherwise provided” is void under California law, even when agreements are “narrowly tailored.” The bill also places an additional administrative burden on the employer, requiring notice to employees that any such agreements or clauses are void under the law by February 14, 2024.  Violation of these provisions is considered an act of unfair competition under the Unfair Competition Law (UCL).

California Employment Law Changes: Expansion of Paid Sick Leave

SB 616 amends the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014 and requires employers to meet specific paid sick leave (PSL) requirements effective January 1, 2024.  The law applies broadly to employers across California, with the exception of railroad carriers.

Under the amended law, employers must offer a minimum of 40 hours of paid sick leave each year to all employees who have worked more than 30 days within the year.  The law also sets forth requirements for accrual and carryover of sick leave time and requires written notice to each employee of the available leave balance.

Local ordinances requiring lesser amounts of leave are superseded by the state law.  In addition, employees subject to collective bargaining agreements, who were previously exempt from paid sick leave requirements, also become protected by certain provisions of the law. 

Minimum Wage Increases for Fast Food and Health Care Workers

The Fast Food Accountability and Standards (FAST) Recovery Act passed in 2022 was set for a referendum by voters in November 2024.  However, the FAST Recovery Act is repealed by the provisions of AB 1228, recently signed by the Governor.

The new bill still establishes a Fast Food Council that will regulate standards for employees in the industry.  In addition to various other provisions, it requires national fast food restaurant chains to pay employees $20 per hour beginning on April 1, 2024.  The council may evaluate and recommend additional increases in the minimum wage for fast food workers each year on January 1.

Employers in the healthcare industry also need to prepare for challenges after the passage of SB 525.  This law sets forth five schedules for healthcare employers to raise the minimum wage of workers to $25 per hour over the course of a designated period of years as determined by the employer’s classification.

The earliest deadline, for employers with more than 10,000 employees, requires an annual increase beginning on June 1, 2023, to $23 per hour with additional increases on June 1 in 2024 and 2025.  Certain government-funded and rural healthcare providers have the longest scheduled timeframe to reach the $25 per hour mark, with an increase to $18 per hour on June 1, 2024, and a deadline of June 1, 2033, to reach $25 per hour.

Ensuring proper classification will be critical for employers affected by this law, and a waiver program will be established to allow employers to request an alternate schedule or a pause on the required wage increases.  It is highly recommended that you work with an experienced California employment law attorney to determine your proper classification and establish a compliance plan.

Employers Must Implement Workplace Violence Prevention Programs

SB 553, signed into law, requires employers to create and maintain workplace violence prevention plans as part of their broader injury prevention programs by July 1, 2024.  These plans must include specific elements as outlined in the law.  Employer programs must also meet various standards related to record-keeping, training, incident logs, investigations and more.

While there are some employer exemptions, including healthcare facilities, all employers would be wise to review and assess the need to implement a workplace violence protection program.

Employers who do not comply with the provisions of the law will be subject to citations and civil penalties.  In some cases, failure to implement and maintain a workplace violence program that is integrated into the employer’s injury prevention program may be classified as a misdemeanor criminal offense.

Preparing for California Employment Law Changes in 2024

Preparing for the various California employment law changes set to take effect over the coming months and years is critical for California employers who need to protect their interests.  Contact Susan A. Rodriguez, a Southern California employer attorney with more than 30 years of experience serving clients in Los Angeles and throughout California.  Contact Susan at The Law Offices of Susan A. Rodriguez, APC by calling (213) 943-1323 or completing this online contact form.

Posted by Susan A. Rodriguez, Esq.

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For legal advice, contact an attorney at the Law Offices of Susan A. Rodriguez, APC  or an attorney actively practicing in your jurisdiction.