Developments in Employment Law
New Laws from the 2023 Legislative Cycle

Sick Leave, Rehire Rights, Retaliation Protections, and More

Quite a few employment law developments from the California Legislature in 2023! Sick leave minimums were increased overall and new leave entitlements for reproductive loss were implemented. The legislature also opened up alternative Labor Code violation enforcement avenues and enhanced retaliation protections. Rehire rights were extended and expanded and workplace violence prevention plans are now required.

Enhanced Retaliation Protections

SB 497 enhances the protections against employer retaliation in three Labor Code sections. First, SB 497 amends Labor Code sections 98.6 and 1197.5 to state that if an employer engages in any action prohibited by either provision within 90 days of the employee’s protected activity, there is a rebuttable presumption in favor of the employee’s claim. Second, SB 497 amends Labor Code section 1102.5, which protects employees against retaliation for whistleblowing activity, to broaden the available civil penalties.

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Rehire Rights for Employees Laid Off Due to COVID-19 Pandemic

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Legislature enacted Labor Code section 2810.8, which provided certain employees who were laid off due to a reason related to the COVID-19 pandemic with recall and rehire rights. SB 723 extends these rights to December 31, 2025. The bill also expands the definition of who counts as a “laid-off employee” entitled to recall and rehire rights.

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Workplace Violence Prevention Plan

SB 553 adds section 6401.9 to the Labor Code and requires employers to develop a workplace violence prevention plan by July 1, 2024. The mandate applies to all employers, with only some narrowly defined exceptions (e.g., health care facilities that are already required to implement workplace violence prevention plans).

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Stay on Appeal After Denial of Motion to Compel Arbitration

SB 365 is not an employment-related bill per se, but it will have significant implications for that area of law. The bill amends Code of Civil Procedure section 1294, which discusses appealable orders in arbitration proceedings. Specifically, it states that an aggrieved party may appeal from an order dismissing or denying a petition to compel arbitration.

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Alternative Enforcement of the Labor Code

AB 594 permits a variety of “public prosecutors” to enforce certain provisions of the Labor Code. Specifically, the bill permits the California Attorney General, a district attorney, a city attorney, a county counsel, and “any other city or county prosecutor” to prosecute a civil or criminal action for violations of the wage and hour provisions of the Labor Code.

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Increased Paid Sick Days

SB 616 increases workers’ paid sick days from three per year to at least five per year, while also increasing the accrual and carryover amounts.

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California Employers Required to Provide Leave for Reproductive Loss

SB 848 will require private employers with five or more employees and public employers regardless of size to provide up to five days of reproductive loss leave when requested by an employee following a reproductive loss event. Reproductive loss events include failed adoptions, failed surrogacies, miscarriages, stillbirth, and unsuccessful assisted reproduction, as those terms are defined in the statute. An employee may be considered to have experienced a reproductive loss event if the employee would have been a parent of the child: if, for example, the adoption had been completed, or if the child had been born as a result of surrogacy or pregnancy.

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