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.
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.