New Laws for California Employers in 2024

January 2024

California’s New Five-Day Paid Sick Leave Mandate: Employer's Guide to Compliance with SB 616 

Beginning January 1, 2024, nearly all California employers will be required to comply with the new requirements set out in Senate Bill ("SB") No. 616, signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom on October 4, 2023. California employees who worked for the same employer for 30 or more days within a year from the commencement of their employment are entitled to paid sick days for certain purposes. SB 616 introduces heightened compliance thresholds for employers regarding said sick days. Below are key changes employers should be aware of in preparation for the new year:

1. Accrual Method: The “accrual method” allows employers to provide one hour for every 30 hours worked (the 1:30 method), which is available for use beginning on the 90th day of employment. Alternatively, employers are permitted to adopt a different accrual method so long as the employee has no less than 24 hours (three days) of accrued sick leave by the 120th calendar day of each calendar year, or in each 12-month period of employment. SB 616 modifies the alternative sick leave accrual method to additionally require that an employer using something other than the 1:30 method, ensure an employee has no less than 40 hours (five days) of accrued sick leave or paid time off by the 200th calendar day of each calendar year, or in each 12-month period of employment.

2. Usage and Accrual Limits: If an employer chooses the accrual method, unused sick pay must carry over to the following year of employment up to a maximum of 80 hours or ten days (whichever is greater). Although the law requires carry-over, employers may limit the use of sick time to 40 hours or five days per year. No carry-over is required if the full amount of leave (40 hours or five days) is provided at the beginning of each year of employment, calendar year, or 12-month period.  The Department of Industrial Relations recently posted guidance for employers on how to true-up employee sick leave balances to comply with the new law. See questions 14-16 here.

3. In-Home Supportive Services: Existing law entitles individual providers of in-home supportive services and waiver personal care services to paid sick days in specified amounts in accordance with minimum wage increases, up to a maximum of 24 hours or three days each year of employment when the minimum wage has reached $15 per hour. SB 616 increases the sick leave accrual rate for said providers to 40 hours or five days each year of employment.

4. Existing Sick Leave or PTO policies: As of now, employers are not required to provide additional paid sick days if the employer has a paid leave or paid time off policy, makes an amount of leave available to employees that may be used for the same purposes, and the policy satisfies one of specified conditions. Prior to SB 616, one such condition required the employer to have provided paid sick leave or paid time off in a manner that results in an employee’s eligibility to earn at least three days or 24 hours of sick leave or paid time off within nine months of employment. SB 616 changes said condition so that the employee must be eligible to earn at least five days or 40 hours of sick leave or paid time off within six months of employment.

5. Collective Bargaining Agreement Employees: While employees covered by collective bargaining agreements ("CBA") are still exempt from some requirements, SB 616 extends non-retaliation and procedural protections to said employees. CBA employees are now permitted to use paid sick leave (if provided for in the CBA) for various reasons and employers cannot retaliate against them for utilizing these benefits.

Notably, SB 616 will exclude railroad carrier employers and their employees from the provisions of the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014, as well as those of SB 616. Employers are advised to promptly review and update their existing paid sick leave policies to ensure compliance with the revised statutory framework to begin in January of the new year.

California's New Workplace Safety Requirements: Employer's Guide to Compliance with SB 553

In September 2023, Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law SB 553, a bill aimed at increasing worker and workplace safety across the State of California.  This new law requires nearly all California employers to establish a written Workplace Violence Prevention Plan (“WVPP”), effective July 1, 2024.

The WVPP requirement is the first such law in the country applicable to employers across various industries. Excluded from the new law are the following:

  • Employers already covered by the Workplace Violence Prevention in Healthcare standard;
  • Employees teleworking from a location of the employee’s choice and not under the employer’s control;
  • Places of employment not accessible to the public and have less than 10 employees working at any given time; and
  • Facilities operated by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and law enforcement agencies.

The new law broadly defines workplace violence as “any act of violence or threat of violence that occurs in a place of employment.”  Such acts may include the “threat or use of physical force against an employee that results in, or has a high likelihood of resulting in, injury, psychological trauma, or stress, regardless of whether the employee sustains an injury.” Workplace violence may be committed by anyone who enters the workplace, including customers, clients, visitors, present or former employees, as well as someone who has, or has had, a personal relationship with an employee.

In compliance with this law, employers must provide employees with “effective training,” addressing, among other things, the employer’s WVPP, how to participate in the development and implementation of the WVPP, workplace violence specific to the employee’s job, how employees can seek assistance to prevent or respond to violence, and strategies to avoid physical harm. This training must be provided when the WVPP is first established and then annually thereafter.  Employers are also required to develop and maintain records of workplace violence hazard assessments, violent incident logs, and workplace violence incident investigations. The Division of Occupational Safety and Health of California ("Cal/OSHA") will enforce the new law by issuance of citations and civil penalties.

If you have any questions about these laws or any other legal developments, please contact the authors or Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani's Employment Law team for more information. To read GRSM's other employment law updates, please click "California Protects Employees Off-Duty Cannabis Use" or "California Employees Entitled to up to 20 Days of Reproductive Loss Leave."