Licensing and Industry Updates

Effective January 1, California employers with five or more employees will be required to allow employees to take up to five days of unpaid leave following a “reproductive loss” defined as “a failed adoption, failed surrogacy, a miscarriage, stillbirth, or unsuccessful assisted reproduction.” The leave must be taken within three months of the loss and cannot exceed 20 days per year. All employees would be eligible if employed for at least 30 days by the same employer. Employees may use vacation, personal leave, accrued and available sick leave, or compensatory time off.

Paid sick time leave was expanded from three days per year to five as SB 616, sponsored by State Senator Lena Gonzales (D-Long Beach), was signed into law. The bill also allows employees to retain accrued hours and carry those hours into succeeding years. The rationale behind more hours is “it saves employers money through improved productivity and morale.” Some cities and counties require more than five days of paid sick leave.

All employers are required to use Homeland Security’s new, shortened and streamlined version of Form I-9 for new and rehired employees. Employers will be penalized if they do not use the latest version. In addition to the new I-9 form, a remote verification alternative exists for qualified employers that use E-Verify, the web-based program designed to certify worker eligibility.

AB 979 is now the law and amended Health and Safety Code 1569.158. Effective January 1, 2024, family councils have more rights. This revision makes family councils more compatible to nursing home family councils, including the allowance of councils to meet “virtually or at an offsite location,” and requires facilities to respond, in writing, to family council concerns and requests with “detailed rationales for any action or inaction taken in response to those requests or concerns.”

California increases its state-wide minimum wage to $16 per hour on January 1. In November 2024 voters will decide if the minimum wage should be $18 an hour. The $25 per hour is not for residential care facilities—yet.

California strengthened current “noncompete agreement” laws when the governor signed AB 1076 and SB 699. A noncompete agreement would restrain a person from “engaging in a lawful profession, trade, or business of any kind,” including a competitive business, which would compete against a current or former employer. Noncompete clauses are illegal in California and an employee cannot be compelled to sign a noncompete agreement as a condition of employment. Any noncompete provisions signed after January 1, 2022 are now void and employers must notify employees who signed such agreements that the noncompete agreement is no longer enforceable. Business & Professions Code 16600.5 renders a noncompete agreement “unenforceable…regardless of where and when it was signed.” Any employer who causes an employee to sign such an agreement is subject to civil damages.

SB 700 gives employees more rights in their use of cannabis. Currently, employers cannot discriminate against applicants or employees based upon their “off-duty” use of cannabis. A newer law, due to start on January 1, 2024, was amended to expand employee rights by prohibiting employers from “requesting information regarding an applicant’s prior cannabis use and from using any criminal history information about previous cannabis use.” Two bills, SB 553 and SB 428 were signed into law to prevent “workplace violence.” By July 1, 2024, employers must implement “written plans and training” to combat workplace violence.