California was on the cutting edge of employee sick leave benefits when it rolled out Paid Sick Leave in 2015, but the 24 hours provided soon looked meager compared to the amounts offered by other states and localities. Now, eight years in, the state has increased the three-day benefit to a five-day benefit. Beginning January 1, 2024, employees must be able to use up to 40 hours or five days per year of paid sick leave.
The standard accrual rate of 1 hour per 30 hours worked remains the same. Employers that use some other method of accrual must allow employees to earn at least 24 hours by their 120th day of employment, or in each calendar year or other 12-month period (same as before), and all 40 hours by their 200th day of employment, or in each calendar year or other 12-month period. (Note that 24 hours in 120 days and 40 hours in 200 days will be earned at the same rate.)
Lump Sum Methods
Employers that provide leave in a lump sum need to provide at least 24 hours or three days of sick leave to use no later than after an employee’s 120th day of employment (same as before) and all 40 hours or five days after their 200th day. Employers are still free to provide the full amount of leave up front and don’t need to provide it in two installments. They can also allow employees to use sick leave before completing 120 days of employment. The California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement does not allow prorating sick leave (e.g., for newly hired, part-time, or temporary employees) when frontloading.
Employers don’t have to allow carryover if providing the full amount of leave (i.e., 40 hours or five days) at the beginning of each year using the lump sum method. However, the law doesn’t allow you to avoid carryover if you decide to divvy up an employee’s lump sum leave allotment into 24 and then 16 hours (or any other combination that did not provide the full amount of leave at the start of the year).
Use Caps and Carryover
The yearly use cap is now 40 hours or five days. The total (rolling) accrual cap is now 80 hours or 10 days.
Preemption of Local Sick Leave Rules
The amended law includes preemption of certain provisions in local sick leave ordinances. This means that localities will need to follow the state law exactly on those particular issues—they will not be allowed to write (or enforce) more restrictive or more employee-friendly rules.
The updated Paid Sick Leave poster from the California Department of Industrial Relations can be found here.
Effective January 1, 2024, employees must receive information about whether a federal or state emergency or disaster declaration applies to where they will work, issued within 30 days before their first day of work, that may affect their health and safety during employment. The notice must be provided upon hire and is part of a notice already required under California Labor Code § 2810.5. The Department of Industrial Relations has updated its Notice to Employee template.
In California, and with limited exceptions, contracts restraining an employee from lawfully working or doing any kind of business (aka noncompete agreements and restrictive covenants) are generally void and unenforceable. Effective January 1, 2024, new legislation will make them void and unenforceable no matter when or where they’re signed. For instance, current and former employers won’t be able to enforce a noncompete agreement even if it was signed and the employment was maintained outside California. Employers also won’t be allowed to enter into a contract with a prospective or current employee that has a noncompete provision or restrictive covenant, and to do so will be a civil violation.
California’s public policy and law prohibiting trade restraints takes precedence over other state laws when an employee seeks employment in California, even if the employee signed the noncompete while living outside of California and working for a non-California employer.
Effective January 1, 2024, employers with five or more paid employees must grant their employees up to five days of reproductive loss leave following a reproductive loss event (loss), which is the day—or for a multiple-day event, the final day—of a failed adoption, failed surrogacy, miscarriage, stillbirth, or unsuccessful assisted reproduction. To be covered by the law, employees must have worked for their employer for at least 30 days prior to taking the leave. Leave is limited to no more than 20 days within a 12-month period, even if an employee experiences more than one loss within that time.
Leave can be taken on nonconsecutive days but must be taken within three months of the employee’s loss. Employees that take any other leave—prior to or immediately following a loss—must complete their reproductive loss leave within three months of the other leave ending.
Reproductive loss leave must be taken in accordance with any existing, applicable employer leave policy. If no such policy exists, the reproductive loss leave may be unpaid. Employees may use vacation, personal leave, accrued and available sick leave, or compensatory time off that is available to them so they can be paid during the otherwise unpaid leave.
Employers must maintain the confidentiality of any employee requesting reproductive loss leave and can’t retaliate against them for requesting the leave, taking the leave, or exercising other rights under the law.
Effective January 1, 2014, California will require employers to inform their employees that they may be eligible for VITA, CalFile, and state and federal antipoverty tax credit eligibility, including the federal and the California EITC, beginning January 1, 2024. This notification must occur within one week of when employers provide an annual wage summary, including, but not limited to, a Form W-2 or a Form 1099, to any employee. A second notification must be sent to all employees during the month of March of the same year.
To comply, employers may provide these notifications by handing them directly to their employee, mailing them to their employee’s last known address, or electronically. The employer is not permitted to satisfy the notification requirement by posting a notice on an employee bulletin board or sending it through office mail. However, these methods of notification are encouraged to help inform all employees.
Beginning January 1, 2024, and only until January 1, 2029, employers can provide information to their employees about the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Unemployment Insurance (UI) Program (e.g., For Your Benefit) via email to an email account of the employee’s choosing—in PDF, JPEG, or other digital image file type format—if an employee affirmatively, and in writing or by electronic acknowledgment, opts-in to receipt of electronic statements or materials. Employers can’t retaliate against employees who don’t opt-in.
For the electronic acknowledgment of receipt of information on UI benefits, the acknowledgment form must do all the following: fully explain that the employee is agreeing to electronic delivery of the notification, provide the employee with information about how they can revoke consent to electronic receipt, and create a record of the employee’s agreement to electronic delivery of the notification.
An employee may revoke the agreement at any time in writing, by email, or by some form of electronic acknowledgment.
Effective January 1, 2024, employers with five or more employees are prohibited from discriminating against an applicant or employee for using cannabis off-duty and away from the workplace. This includes discriminating based on a drug test that finds non-psychoactive cannabis metabolites in their system. Non-psychoactive cannabis metabolites are what’s stored in the body after THC (which causes the “high”) is metabolized. Their presence means that cannabis was consumed but doesn’t indicate that a person is currently impaired.
Additionally, employers can’t ask about an applicant’s prior use of cannabis or consider information about an applicant’s or employee’s prior cannabis use. This includes making decisions based on information revealed in their criminal history unless doing so is allowed by state or federal law.
Employers can still make employment decisions based on drug tests that don’t screen for non-psychoactive cannabis metabolites. Employers can also continue to take steps to ensure a drug-free workplace, such as prohibiting employees from having or using cannabis at work or being impaired on the job.
The law contains certain exceptions, including but not limited to employees in building and construction and positions for which drug testing is governed by federal or state law, a federal contract, or as a condition of receiving federal funds or licensing.