California Governor Gavin Newsome signed several laws that affect many of the state’s employers. These new laws took effect on January 1, 2022. The minimum wage for employers with 26 or more employees increased to $15.00 per hour. Those with fewer than 25 employees rose to $14.00 per hour. Other significant changes include:
Senate Bill 331 (SB 311) prevents employers from settling lawsuits by setting conditions that prevent disclosure of sexual assault or similar conduct. SB 311 reaches public and private employers, no matter the size. It makes it illegal to settle lawsuits that prevent the disclosure of sexual assault, sexual harassment, workplace harassment, and retaliation against workers who report such claims. It prohibits any form of protected discrimination.
SB 331 also prevents employers from forcing employees to sign an agreement waiving rights to disclose similar information based on sexual harassment in exchange for something in return, such as a raise, bonus, or continued employment.
Assembly Bill 1033 (AB 1033) expands the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) to include parents-in-law to the list of family members who can take leave.
AB 1033 also amends the small employer family leave program, which covers employers with 5 to 19 employees. Under this requirement, the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) must notify an employee of the mediation requirement before filing a civil action.
New laws have created more robust measures to keep employees safe. Senate Bill (SB) 606 allows Cal-OSHA to issue citations and fines for “egregious” violations. Egregious violations include instances when an employer makes no reasonable effort to eliminate an unknown violation, commits a willful violation that results in worker fatalities, or commits a willful violation that produces high rates of employee injuries.
Assembly Bill 1003 makes it a crime to fail to pay employee wages. When an employer intentionally fails to pay one employee their wages of more than $950, or wages for two or more employees of $2,350, it is punishable as grand theft. The failure to pay salaries must occur in any consecutive 12-month timeframe. Employees also include independent contractors.
Assembly Bill 654 updated the COVID-19 notice requirements. Employers must notify individuals within one business day or 48 hours. The health department must report to any person who was in the same workplace as the COVID-19 case during the infectious period. Certain licensed entities, like community clinics, adult day health centers, and child daycare facilities, are exempt. The law is set to be repealed on January 1, 2023.