California employers should be aware of several new employment laws that go into effect on January 1, 2024. The following are key details and action items to take to be prepared.

Cannabis Protections in Employment

Employers with five or more employees will be prohibited from discriminating against applicants or employees for using cannabis off-duty and away from the workplace. This includes discrimination based on drug tests detecting non-psychoactive cannabis metabolites. Furthermore, employers cannot inquire about an applicant’s prior cannabis use or consider such information in employment decisions. Exceptions exist for specific roles and positions governed by federal or state law.

Action Items for Employers:

  • Review and update your drug screening policies to ensure they’re in compliance
  • Update any equal employment opportunity policies to incorporate off-duty and off-premises use of cannabis.
  • Ensure that managers and those involved in hiring know they must refrain from asking about or considering an applicant’s off-duty cannabis use.

Reproductive Loss Leave

Employers with five or more employees must provide up to five days of leave to employees who experience a reproductive loss, including failed adoption, surrogacy, miscarriage, stillbirth, or unsuccessful assisted reproduction. This applies to employees who have been employed for at least 30 days. Generally, the leave must be completed within three months, can be taken intermittently, and can be unpaid unless covered by an existing paid leave policy.

If unpaid, employees have the option to use any available paid leave, including accrued sick leave. Reproductive loss leave is supplementary to all other state leave entitlements and operates independently of CFRA or PDL. For employees who experience multiple losses, employers may impose a leave limit of 20 days within a 12-month period.

Action Items for Employers:

  • Incorporate a reproductive loss leave policy into your employee handbooks or policy documents.
  • Train your supervisors and human resources staff on the existence and parameters of reproductive loss leave.

Sick Leave

The required paid sick leave for full-time employees will increase from three days (24 hours) to five days (40 hours).

Employers who use a “front-loading” approach for sick leave must provide five days (40 hours) at the start of the year. Employers using the accrual method must ensure that employees possess a minimum of 24 hours by the 120th calendar day of employment and at least 40 hours by the 200th calendar day of employment. Furthermore, employers using the accrual method must allow the carryover of accrued sick days into the subsequent year. However, employers have the authority to limit an employee’s use of accrued paid sick days to 40 hours annually. The law also raises the accrual threshold from six days (48 hours) to 10 days (80 hours).

Action Item for Employers:

  • Review and revise your current paid sick leave policies and employee handbooks.

Emergency or Disaster Declaration Information

All employers are required to provide new employees with notice about federal or state emergency or disaster declarations affecting the county or counties where the employee will work, and that may impact their health and safety on the job. This requirement applies to declarations issued within 30 days before an employee’s first day of employment. This information will require employers to update their Wage Theft Prevention Notice. On December 14, 2023, the Labor Commissioner published an updated Wage Theft Prevention Notice template that employers may use.

Action Item for Employers:

  • Update your Wage Theft Prevention notice for nonexempt employees and H-2A workers to comply with the new requirements.

Increased Minimum Wages and Minimum Salaries

Statewide Minimum Wage

California state minimum wage for all employers, regardless of size, will increase by 50 cents, to $16 per hour.

Exempt Employee Minimum Salaries and Wages

The minimum exempt salary, tied to the state’s minimum wage, will increase from $64,480 to $66,560. (Note: Several cities have their own minimum wage requirements exceeding the state’s minimum wage.)

The minimum hourly rate for exempt computer software employees will increase to $55.58 per hour (or an annual salary of $115,763.35).

The minimum hourly rate for exempt licensed physicians and surgeons paid on an hourly basis will increase to $101.22 per hour.

Local Minimum Wages

Several cities will also experience hourly minimum wage increases, including:

Belmont: $17.35

Burlingame: $17.03

Cupertino: $17.75

Daly City: $16.62

East Palo Alto: $17

El Cerrito: $17.92

Foster City: $17

Half Moon Bay: $17.01

Hayward (25 or fewer employees): $16 (state rate)

Hayward (26 or more employees): $16.90

Los Altos: $17.75

Menlo Park: $16.70

Mountain View: $18.75

Novato (25 or fewer employees): $16.04

Novato (26–99 employees): $16.60

Novato (100 or more employees): $16.86

Oakland: $16.50

Oakland (hotels with health benefits): $17.94

Oakland (hotels without health benefits): $23.91

Palo Alto: $17.80

Petaluma: $17.45

Redwood City: $17.70

Richmond (with benefits): $16 (state rate)

Richmond (without benefits): $17.20

San Carlos: $16.87

San Diego: $16.85

San José: $17.55

San Mateo City: $17.35

San Mateo County (unincorporated areas only): $17.06

Santa Clara: $17.75

Santa Rosa: $17.45

Sonoma City (25 or fewer employees): $16.56

Sonoma City (26 or more employees): $17.60

South San Francisco: $17.25

Sunnyvale: $18.55

Action Item for Employers:

  • Ensure your payroll is ready to make the increase starting on the first of the year, including for those who may be working overnight shifts on New Year’s Eve.
  • Confirm that your exempt employees’ salaries will meet the new required thresholds.
  • Check the local minimum wage for all jurisdictions where they have workers and note any increase for 2024 to make sure you are complying with local law.

For more information on these California employment law updates, please contact a trusted human resources professional and/or legal counsel.

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