September 28, 2023

Proposed New Legislation Threatens California Employers

3 min

With the close of the legislative session, California employers are now waiting to see what new laws might go into effect. Below is a summary of some of the laws currently being considered for signature or veto by Governor Newsom.

  • SB-731 (Return to Work): This bill would require employers to provide remote employees at least 30 days of written notice before requiring the employee to return to the office. In that notice, employers would also be required to notify employees of their right to seek an accommodation, such as remote work, due to a disability
  • SB 497 (Retaliation): This legislation would establish a rule that if an employee engages in protected conduct, like a harassment or discrimination complaint, there would be a rebuttable presumption in favor of the employee's claim, if an employer retaliates or otherwise disciplines the employee, within 90 days of the protected activity
  • AB 1356 (WARN Expansion): Cal-WARN would be significantly expanded under this proposed legislation. Employers would be required to provide notice 75 days (versus 60) in advance of a Cal-WARN triggering event. Seasonal employees now might also be covered under Cal-WARN if they were laid off before a temporary project was complete. Furthermore, Cal-WARN would also expand the definition of "covered establishment" to apply to multiple locations or groups of locations, versus one industrial or commercial facility
  • AB 524 (FEHA Expansion): AB 524 would add an employee's "caregiver status" as a protected category under the Fair Employment Housing Act. Employees would be protected from discrimination for caregiving for a spouse, child, parent, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, domestic partner, or any individual previously identified by the employee as a "designated person"
  • SB 616 (Paid Sick Leave): This bill would expand California's sick leave requirements by mandating that employers provide no less than 40 hours of paid sick leave by the employee's 200th day of employment (from 24 hours of paid sick leave by the 120th day of employment). Employees would also be able accrue up to a cap of 80 hours of paid sick leave
  • SB 365 (Arbitration): Under this proposed bill, a proceeding in trial court would not be automatically stayed after an appeal of an order dismissing or denying a petition to compel arbitration
  • SB 799 (Unemployment Benefits for Striking Workers): In an apparent nod to the recent entertainment strikes, unemployment would now be available to employees who have left work because of a trade dispute. Employees' eligibility for unemployment would be restored after two weeks and would also apply to employees who have left work because of a lockout

While it remains unclear whether any of the legislation discussed here will be enacted into law, employers should be aware of changes they might have to make in the new year. Governor Newsom has until October 14 to sign or veto the measures.

Employers with questions about proposed California labor and employment legislation should feel free to contact the authors of this article or any other member of Venable's Labor and Employment Group.