It’s that time of year again! With October comes the annual slew of bills passed by the Governor. This year, Governor Newsom signed into law a host of new and revised labor and employment laws. There’s so much packed into the new bills that this will be a two-part series. Unless otherwise noted, all of these laws come into effect on the first day of the new year.

Leave Policies

The legislature modified multiple aspects of CA’s paid and unpaid leave rules. AB 1041 expanded the kinds of people that Californians can use leave to care for. Workers can now use their CFRA leave time to care for any blood relative, or a person with whom they have a relationship that is the “equivalent” to a family relationship. Additionally, they can use paid sick days to care for anyone they choose – but this can be limited to one “designated person” a year.Workers now also have the right to take up to five days of protected bereavement leave (without pay or using accrued PTO). AB 1949 requires employers with over five employees to allow employees to take time off within three months of the death of an immediate family member (including in-laws), a grandparent, or a grandchild. Employers can require documentation of the death. These amended leave laws will require most employers to update their handbooks.When it comes to paid leave, the state extended the 70 percent wage replacement rate for workers using the Paid Family Leave and State Disability Insurance programs until the end of 2024. Starting in 2025, workers will receive 90 percent of their wages from the EDD. The state also is seeking to assist small businesses facing increased training costs or that have to hire temp workers to replace employees on Paid Family Leave. The state is offering grants of up to $2,000 to eligible employers.

Workplace Health and Safety

The Legislature took steps to further protect employee rights to avoid unsafe workplaces. SB 1044 makes it illegal for companies to punish their staff for leaving or refusing to report to work during emergency conditions. Specifically, this allows workers to stay away from their workplaces when a natural disaster or crime threatens their safety at work, or if an evacuation order covers their workplace or their home or their child’s school. First responders, certain healthcare workers, and residential care facility employees are exempt. The law also protects an employee’s right to use their phone during an emergency to call 911, check in with loved ones, or assess a situation’s safety.Employers may want to consider modifying their handbooks to reflect the new protections.The Legislature overhauled the state’s COVID-19 reporting requirements for employers as we (hopefully?) exit the pandemic. Under newly adopted AB 2693, instead of directly notifying employees of potential workplace exposure, a prominently displayed notice (including the dates the potential exposure happened and staying up for 15 days) is sufficient. Employers also don’t have to report cases to local authorities anymore. I still recommend notifying employees directly whenever possible. AB 1751 extends the rebuttable presumption that people who contract COVID-19 in certain ways are entitled to worker’s comp until January 1, 2024. Also, workers are eligible to use the state’s COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave until the end of the year thanks to AB 152. There are a few slight changes to the CSPSL, so review the requirements if an employee indicates they are unable to work as a result of COVID-19. The most recent poster for CSPSL can be downloaded here.Finally, AB 2068 requires employers that receive CAL OSHA citations to post a new notification about that citation in English and other common languages.Part 2 of this article will discuss new anti-discrimination measures, privacy protections and some other miscellaneous laws.

Original article by J.T. Kean, edited by Robert Nuddleman

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The Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. represents employers and employees in a wide range of employment law matters. Much of our practice focuses on wage and hour issues, such as unpaid overtime, meal and rest break violations, designing or enforcing commission plans, and other wage-related claims. Mr. Nuddleman advises employers on how to avoid harassment and wrongful termination claims and represents employees who have been victims of unlawful discrimination, retaliation or harassment. The Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C. helps employers develop good employment policies, helps employers and employees with disability accommodation issues and ensures employees are correctly paid wages owed.