2023 was a big year for California’s state legislature. From crime and healthcare to housing and schools, California’s legislators passed a bevy of new laws, including many that will significantly impact workers. Though some of these laws won’t be effective for a few more months, many have already taken effect. We discuss the most significant ones below.
Crackdown Against Noncompete Agreements
California has long been a leader in the fight against noncompete agreements, which restrain worker mobility and suppress wages. With the passage of SB 699, however, the state has taken its fight to another level, making most noncompete agreements unenforceable “regardless of where and when the contract was signed” and “regardless of whether the contract was signed and the employment was maintained outside of California.”
In practice, this means that out-of-state companies intending to enforce noncompete agreements against employees or former employees seeking work in California will be unable to do so, barring some exceptions.
Unpaid Leave for Reproductive Losses
SB 848 allows California’s workers to take up to five days of unpaid leave following a “reproductive loss event.” The law defines such events as “the day or, for a multiple-day event, the final day of a failed adoption, failed surrogacy, miscarriage, stillbirth, or an unsuccessful assisted reproduction.” The law also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for taking reproductive loss leave.
More Paid Sick Leave
Due to the passage of SB 616, California’s workers now have the right to accrue and use up to five days (or 40 hours) of paid sick leave. The state’s workers were previously guaranteed a minimum of three paid sick leave days.
Protections for Cannabis Users
AB 2188 was actually passed after the 2022 legislative session but did not take effect until this month. The law prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals on the basis of cannabis use “off the job and away from the workplace,” with some exceptions.
Similarly, a law from this past legislative session, SB 700, prohibits employers from requesting information from job applicants about their prior use of cannabis. The law also prohibits employers from using information obtained from an applicant’s criminal history about their prior cannabis use, with some exceptions.
For more on the latest developments in employment law, visit our blog here. If you believe your employer may have violated workplace laws, click here to get in touch with our office.
Last Saturday was the deadline for California Governor Gavin Newsom to either sign or veto the roughly 1,000 bills that made it to his desk. Below is a recap of some of the most notable employment bills that the Governor signed or vetoed.
Higher Minimum Wages
Governor Newsom signed a pair of bills, AB 1228 and SB 525, that set higher minimum wages for workers in the fast food and healthcare industries. Under AB 1228, fast-wood workers’ minimum wage will be bumped to $20 an hour in April. Hundreds of thousands of healthcare workers in the state will see their minimum wage eventually increased to $25 an hour under SB 525.
Employers Lose a Delay Tactic
SB 365 allows employment lawsuit proceedings to move forward, rather than pause, when defendants appeal orders denying a request to compel arbitration. Governor Newsom signed the bill, effectively undercutting a tactic that sometimes-allowed employers to delay cases for years at a time.
More Paid Sick Days
Starting next year, California’s workers will be entitled to at least five days of paid sick leave, up from the current minimum of three days, as a result of Governor Newsom signing SB 616.
Family Caregiver bill Nixed
In a defeat for employees, the Governor vetoed AB 524, a bill that would have added “family caregiver status” to the list of protected characteristics that employers cannot consider when making employment decisions such as hiring and firing.
No Unemployment Benefits while on Strike
SB 799 would have allowed workers to collect unemployment insurance benefits while on strike. Governor Newsom vetoed the bill, citing the multi-billion-dollar debt that California’s unemployment insurance program incurred to keep benefits flowing during the pandemic.
To see what other important employment bills were signed and vetoed by the Governor, click here.
Lauren Teukolsky was quoted in a Thursday Law360 article on California’s newest U.S. senator, Laphonza Butler. Butler was appointed by Governor Gavin Newsom and sworn in earlier this month to fill the seat of Dianne Feinstein, who passed away after representing California on Capitol Hill for over three decades. The Law 360 article discusses Senator Butler’s background, and her mixed experience regarding workers’ rights.
Butler’s greatest achievement for California’s workers came during her time as president of SEIU (Service Employees International Union) Local 2015, where she helped with the “fight for $15,” a movement that led to 2016 California legislation that eventually increased the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour. Afterwards, however, Butler joined the private sector and worked for Uber, a company that has gone to great lengths to avoid having to classify its drivers as employees.
The corporate background has led to some concerns regarding Butler’s commitment to workers. In Law360’s article, Ms. Teukolsky expressed cautious optimism about Butler:
“’Her time working in corporate America was relatively brief, if you look at the entirety of her career,’ Teukolsky said. ‘She does seem to be progressive and have workers' rights at the forefront, and hopefully whatever time she spent working for Uber was an aberration or a blip.’”
To read the Law360 article in its entirety, click here. To learn more about Lauren Teukolsky and Teukolsky Law, click here.
Thursday, September 14th marked the deadline for California’s two legislative bodies – the state assembly and state senate – to pass bills. Bills passed by both bodies will now head to Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk, where the governor will have one month to determine which bills to sign into law.
The employment bills Mr. Newsom will consider for approval run the gamut, from legislation on caregiver discrimination to bills increasing paid sick days. Below is a recap of the bills at the governor’s desk that figure to have the greatest impact on California’s workers if approved.
Family Caregiver Discrimination – AB 524
AB 524 would amend the state’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) by adding “family caregiver status” to the list of protected characteristics that employers cannot take into account when making employment decisions such as hiring and firing.
Consideration of this bill comes at a critical time. Caregivers are the fastest growing workplace identity group and may make up us much as 73% of the American workforce. More than 63 million Americans care for at least one child, and 40.4 million Americans provide unpaid care to someone aged 65 years or older. The pandemic’s aftermath and America’s rapidly aging population have only exacerbated the challenges faced by caregivers.
Arbitration Appeal Delays – SB 365
When trial courts find that a forced arbitration agreement is invalid, employers frequently use delay tactics, such as filing an appeal, that can effectively pause a case for years at a time. If signed into law, SB 365 would undercut such tactics and allow employment lawsuits to move forward when defendants file appeals involving a petition to compel arbitration.
WARN Act Expansion – AB 1356
California’s Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act protects employees by requiring employers to give a 60-day notice to affected employees before a plant closing or mass layoff. AB 1356 would expand the WARN Act’s protections by requiring employers to provide employees with 75 days of advance notice. It would also prohibit employers from requiring employees to waive their rights by signing onerous severance agreements with releases and non-disparagement provisions in exchange for the payment of back wages. The bill was inspired by the massive layoffs at tech companies like Google and Meta, particularly Elon Musk’s alleged mishandling of layoffs at the company formerly known as Twitter.
Additional Paid Sick Days- SB 616
SB 616 would require California’s employers to provide workers with five days of paid sick leave instead of the current allotment of three. Increasing the number of paid sick will reduce the frequency at which workers, particularly low-income workers, are forced to make difficult decisions between foregoing pay and going to work sick. If signed into law, the bill is also expected to strengthen public health protections. According to the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, “paid sick leave guarantees are seen by many public health experts as one of the strongest tools in stopping the spread of infectious diseases.”
For a list of other employment bills heading to Mr. Newsom’s desk, click here. The governor will have until October 14th to sign bills from this year’s legislative session into law.
Lauren Teukolsky will speak on a Beverly Hills Bar Association (BHBA) webinar on August 22 on the future of California’s Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) following the state’s highly anticipated Supreme Court ruling in Adolph v. Uber Technologies, Inc.. Chris Jalian, a Partner at Paul Hastings, LLP, will join Ms. Teukolsky on the webinar. Nazgole Hashemi, Co-Founder of LegalAxxis, Inc., will serve as moderator for the event.
The webinar will examine what the Adolph v. Uber ruling means for employees and employers, with Ms. Teukolsky representing the employees’ perspective and Mr. Jalian representing the employers’ perspective. In the ruling, the Court held that California’s workers could continue to pursue PAGA labor claims on behalf of their coworkers even if their individual labor claims were forced into arbitration. Experts considered the ruling to be a big win for the state’s workers.
Ms. Teukolsky’s commentary on Adolph v. Uber was previously featured in several articles by Bloomberg Law and Law.com.
The BHBA’s Labor and Employment section will present the webinar. The section provides a forum for labor and employment attorneys and neutrals to network, share ideas, and learn about the latest issues and trends in the field.
The webinar will take place on Tuesday, August 22 from 12:30 pm to 1:30 pm PT via ZOOM. To register, click here.
Lauren Teukolsky Quoted by Bloomberg Law and Law.com on long-awaited CA Supreme Court Ruling in Adoph v. Uber
Lauren Teukolsky was quoted by Bloomberg Law and Law.com in a pair of articles this week on the CA Supreme Court’s Monday decision in Adolph v. Uber Technologies, Inc.. In the highly anticipated ruling, the Court held that the state’s workers could continue to pursue representative PAGA labor claims even if their individual labor claims were forced into arbitration. The Court’s ruling is considered a huge win for California’s workers.
PAGA (Private Attorneys General Act) is a state law that authorizes employees to collect civil penalties for violations against themselves and their coworkers on behalf of California’s Labor Commissioner, which has struggled to manage a backlog of cases for the past several decades.
Arbitration is a private dispute resolution process that overwhelmingly favors employers and shields corporations from public scrutiny and accountability. Employers frequently require their employees to sign agreements stipulating that all claims made by them will be resolved in private arbitration as opposed to being litigated through the courts, a process that is public and more favorable to workers.
A ruling in Uber’s favor would have made it very difficult to bring PAGA cases forward – due to the prevalence of arbitration agreements – and would have seriously eroded workers’ ability to enforce the state’s labor laws.
Uber’s lawyers have indicated that the company is considering appealing the Court’s decision. According to analysis Ms. Teukolsky published on LinkedIn, the U.S. Supreme Court is unlikely to hear such an appeal, especially in light of its 2022 decision in Viking River Cruises, Inc. v. Moriana. She said, “It's unlikely SCOTUS will hear a case from a state supreme court involving entirely state-law issues; there must a federal question involved.”
Ms. Teukolsky has represented workers for over two decades and her commentary on the latest developments in employment law is regularly featured by major publications such as Bloomberg Law, Law360, Law.com, and the Los Angeles Times.
To access the Bloomberg Law article in its entirety, click here. To access the Law.com article in its entirety, click here.
Last week, UNITE HERE Local 11, a union that represents service and hospitality workers across the American Southwest, asked 15,000 of its southern California members to vote on a strike authorization. Workers overwhelmingly voted to authorize the strike, with 96% of Local 11 members voting in favor. The strike authorization is a significant step towards convincing the region’s hotel operators to consider pay increases for their workers, many of which struggle to make ends meet.
Local 11’s move comes less than a month before 62 of its contracts with Southern California hotels are set to expire. For months, the union and hotels have attempted to negotiate new agreements but have failed to reach a consensus on Local 11’s proposals, including pay increases for its members and other provisions meant to address employees’ healthcare, pensions, work eligibility, and issues related to understaffing.
As California has emerged from the pandemic, the hospitality and tourism industries have roared back, with visitor spending expected to set new records in 2023. However, the workers that form the backbone of the two industries have largely not reaped the rewards of rebound. Rent hikes and increased living costs continue to force many hotel workers out of their homes while their employers fail to address persistently low wages.
Teukolsky Law stands in solidarity with Southern California’s hotel workers and commends the work Local 11 is doing to ensure workers are fairly compensated and protected heading into the summer.
Lauren Teukolsky’s commentary was featured in a recent Law360 article on the Ninth Circuit’s recent ruling that California’s A.B. 51 is preempted by federal law. AB 51 prohibited employers from forcing employees to give up their civil rights, such as the right to a jury trial and the right to appeal an adverse decision, as a condition of employment. The ruling, a reversal of the Ninth Circuit’s own prior decision in 2021, is a significant blow to the state’s workers.
California Governor Gavin Newsom signed A.B. 51 into law in 2019, making it illegal for employers to force individuals to waive their right to bring civil rights cases in court as a condition of employment. Arbitration agreements typically stipulate that all claims made by workers—regardless of their severity—must be resolved under private arbitration, a process that overwhelmingly favors employers, disproportionately harms historically marginalized communities, and shields corporations from public scrutiny and accountability. A.B. 51 was meant to ensure that employees were not coerced into signing away their rights, and that all waivers of these significant rights were voluntary.
Last year, a three judge Ninth Circuit panel voted to revisit a 2021 decision in which it partially reversed an injunction that stopped California from enforcing A.B. 51. Last month, the panel found that the Federal Arbitration Act preempted A.B. 51, nullifying the law in most situations and allowing California’s corporations to once again force workers to sign arbitration agreements waiving their civil rights.
Law360’s article features analysis and advice from management-side and workers- side attorneys on how corporations and workers’ advocates should respond to the Ninth Circuit’s decision. In the article, Ms. Teukolsky advises plaintiffs’ lawyers to be extremely cautious when advising clients on arbitration agreements:
"’Plaintiff-side employment attorneys need to think very carefully before they advise an employee to refuse to sign one of these arbitration agreements,’ Teukolsky said. ‘I think you need to advise them: you may lose your job over this. Is that a risk you're willing to take?’" Ms. Teukolsky speaks from experience: she filed one of the only cases under A.B. 51 after her client was fired for expressing opposition to signing away her rights.
To read the article in its entirety, click here. For the Court’s opinion holding that A.B. 51 is preempted, click here.
If you have concerns about an arbitration agreement your employer has recently asked you to sign, click here to get in touch with our office.
Last week, Bloomberg Law cited research by Lauren Teukolsky in an article about oral arguments in Moriana v. Viking River Cruises, Inc., a pivotal Supreme Court case that was sent back to the California Court of Appeal for further action. The appellate court’s decision could have vast repercussions for lawsuits brought under the Private Attorneys General Act (“PAGA”).
Since SCOTUS’s Viking River decision, Ms. Teukolsky’s research shows that California courts have consistently rejected employer arguments that representative PAGA claims must be dismissed once the “individual” component of the plaintiff’s PAGA claim has been sent to arbitration. Bloomberg Law’s article states:
“California trial courts dismissed representative claims after moving individual claims into arbitration in just six of 75 decisions collected and analyzed by Lauren Teukolsky of the plaintiff-side firm Teukolsky Law APC. Bloomberg Law independently reviewed those decisions.”
Ms. Teukolsky’s updated numbers show an even greater trend in favor of employees.
Viking River and the fate of PAGA have been on the forefront of labor and employment experts’ minds for the past several years. In addition to her commentary on the issue for news outlets such as Bloomberg Law and the Daily Journal, Ms. Teukolsky has also discussed the implications of Viking River on a panel for CELA, a statewide organization that works to protect and expand the legal rights of workers, as well as for the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers, the preeminent peer-selected organization of labor and employment lawyers in the United States.
To read the article on Bloomberg Law, click here. To get in touch with Teukolsky Law, click here.
Last month, Bloomberg Law quoted Lauren Teukolsky in an article about the differing approaches taken by California Superior Courts and federal courts towards representative Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) claims in the months since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Viking River Cruises, Inc. v. Moriana.
In Viking River, the majority held that employers could force arbitration of workers’ individual claims under PAGA, a California law that allows workers to sue companies for employment law violations on behalf of the state. However, the decision was written in a way that essentially left the fate of representative PAGA claims in the hands of California’s lower courts.
For the most part, federal courts have strictly adhered to the Supreme Court’s ruling, sending individual claims to arbitration, and dismissing representative PAGA claims in over half of the decisions analyzed by Bloomberg Law. According to research conducted by Ms. Teukolsky, California’s state courts have taken a different tack. The article states:
“In sharp contrast, state trial courts dismissed representative claims after moving individual claims into arbitration in just six of 75 decisions collected and analyzed by Lauren Teukolsky of the plaintiff-side firm Teukolsky Law PC. Bloomberg Law independently reviewed those decisions […] The trend of state courts not dismissing non-individual PAGA claims is a huge victory for workers in the state of California,” Teukolsky said. The fate of PAGA will likely be decided in Adolph v. Uber, which is currently pending before the California Supreme Court.
Ms. Teukolsky is frequently cited in news publications for her commentary on developments in employment law, including a pair of Bloomberg Law and Daily Journal articles in 2022 that featured her commentary on Viking River. Ms. Teukolsky also discussed the case on several panels organized by the Los Angeles County Bar Association, the California Employment Lawyers Association, and the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers, the preeminent peer-selected organization of labor and employment lawyers in the United States. To learn more about Ms. Teukolsky’s experience, click here.
To read the article in its entirety, click here. If you believe you’ve been treated unlawfully in the workplace and want to get in touch with our office, click here.
Lauren Teukolsky is the founder and owner of Teukolsky Law, A Professional Corporation.