Lauren Teukolsky was quoted in a September 19th article by Bloomberg Law on AB 2188, a recently signed bill in California that prohibits employers from discriminating against workers who use cannabis in their off-work hours. Once the bill goes into effect on January 1, 2024, it will be illegal for California employers to make any employment decisions based on an employee’s use of cannabis “off the job and away from the workplace,” according to the law’s text. This means, for example, that an employer may not fire an employee who used cannabis use when they were off the job and away from work. Hiring decisions will be limited in this manner as well.
The law will not apply to workers in building and construction trades or those holding positions that require a federal background clearance. Also, the bill will not permit employees to possess, to be impaired by, or to use, cannabis on the job.
Governor Newsom’s signing of the bill represents a huge victory for many of California’s workers. Even though recreational cannabis has been legal in the state since 2018, and medicinal cannabis has been legal since 1996, California’s laws and cannabis testing technology are only just beginning to catch up. Standard drug tests still screen for substances in the body that may be present days or even weeks since an individual used cannabis. This means that, before AB 2188 takes effect, a worker or job applicant could still be fired or denied employment for having used cannabis during their own free time, weeks prior to any test being administered.
Some employer-side attorneys have suggested that AB 2188 inappropriately amends California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) to afford cannabis users the same protections as minorities or other protected classes. Ms. Teukolsky counters that notion. As stated in the Bloomberg Law article:
“[D]iscipline against those who smoke or ingest marijuana disproportionately affects workers of color, said Lauren Teukolsky, who represents workers in court. It was one of the reasons Amazon.com Inc. stopped drug testing during the hiring process. The new law shielding marijuana consumers ‘is entirely consistent with FEHA’s aim of eliminating discrimination against people of color in the workplace,’ Teukolsky said in an email.”
To read the Bloomberg Law Article in its entirety, click here. If you believe your employer is behaving unlawfully and want to get in touch with Teukolsky Law, click here.
Governor Newsom Signs Groundbreaking Bill to Raise Wages and Improve Working Conditions for Fast Food Workers
On Labor Day, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB 257 into law. The bill, also known as the FAST Recovery Act, is aimed at raising wages and improving the working conditions of California’s more than 550,000 fast-food workers by establishing a new state council with the power to set state-wide minimum standards for the fast-food industry.
The 10-member council will consist of political appointees from state health and labor agencies, as well as food industry officials, fast food workers, and union representatives. It will have the authority to raise the minimum wage for industry workers up to $22/hour and issue new safety and anti-discrimination rules. The standards set by the council would apply to any chain in California that has at least 100 stores nationwide that share a common brand.
AB 257 also improves the collective bargaining power of fast-food workers across California. Currently, wages and conditions in the U.S. are typically negotiated between workers and management at individual companies, often location by location. In these settings, workers frequently lack leverage against their employer. However, under AB 257, fast-food workers throughout California will have representatives negotiating on their behalf to set industry-wide standards.
Teukolsky Law would like to congratulate all the fast-food workers, unions, and labor allies that fought and advocated for AB 257. If you are a fast-food worker and believe your employer has violated the law, click here to get in touch with Teukolsky Law.
Last month, the California State Assembly and Senate churned through hundreds of bills in order to meet the “house of origin deadline” – the deadline by which all bills must have passed through their chamber of origin just to have a chance of being signed into law later this year. The bills that passed vary greatly, from bills focused on gun control to bills aimed at enhancing abortion protections. Teukolsky Law would like to take a moment to highlight some of the passed bills that will significantly benefit California’s workers, should they be signed into law later this year.
Senate Bill 1162
SB 1162, the Pay Transparency for Pay Equity Act, aims to improve workplace pay transparency and close the gender and race wage gap by requiring employers with 100 or more employees to publicly report their pay data broken down by race, ethnicity, and sex for both direct employees and employees hired through a third-party staffing agency. The bill would also require employers to provide a salary range on all job postings and promotional opportunities available to all current employees. SB 1162 passed the Senate on a 29-9 vote.
Assembly Bill 1949
AB 1949 would amend the state’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) to require employers to grant their employees at least 5 days of unpaid bereavement leave, or time off for the death or funeral of a family member. AB 1949 passed the Assembly on a 59-9 bipartisan vote.
Senate Bill 836
SB 836 would reinstate a provision that protects a person’s immigration status from disclosure in public court proceedings. This protection ended at the beginning of 2022 and stopped employers from using a worker’s immigration status to deter the worker from bringing legal claims against the employer. SB 836 passed the Senate on a 28-0 vote.
All three of the above bills are sponsored by the California Employment Lawyers Association (CELA) a statewide organization that works to protect and expand the legal rights of workers through litigation, education, and advocacy. For a complete list of all bills being tracked by CELA, click here.
Lauren Teukolsky is the founder and owner of Teukolsky Law, A Professional Corporation.