agreeing to a non-compete agreement

California Strengthens Ban on Non-Compete Agreements

As of January 1, 2024, two new California laws take effect, seeking to reinforce the state’s longstanding prohibition of non-competition agreements.

SB 699 prohibits employers from entering into or trying to enforce noncompete agreements that are void under California law, regardless of where the employee worked when the agreement was entered or where the agreement was executed. Additionally, AB 1076 makes it unlawful for employers to include post-employment noncompete clauses in employment contracts or require employees to enter post-employment noncompete agreements. As of February 14, 2024, AB 1076 requires employers to provide all current and certain former employees with individualized written notices that any post-employment noncompete clause in an employment agreement and/or post-employment noncompete agreement with the employer is void.

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Changes to Paid Sick Leave Accruals and Use

The Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014 (Act) establishes requirements relating to paid sick days and paid sick leave, including requiring employees to have at least 24 hours accrued by their 120th day of employment. Starting January 1, 2024, employers must raise the minimum hours of accrued sick leave to 40 hours or 5 days. This new law will significantly impact how employees accrue and utilize sick leave.

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Changes to Food Handler Regulations

The California Retail Food Code currently requires that food handlers must obtain and maintain a valid food handler card within 30 days of their hiring. It also requires food handlers to successfully complete a food handler training course and examination, with a cost cap of $15, including the food handler card.

Under SB 476, effective January 1, 2024, employers are now required to consider the time employees spend on completing the training and the examination as compensable “hours worked.” During the training course and examination, employers must now also relieve employees of all other work duties. Additionally, employers must cover necessary expenditures or losses associated with employees obtaining a food handler card. Importantly, SB 476 also prohibits an employer from making employment conditional on an applicant or employee already having a food handler card.

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California Expands Job Protections for Cannabis Users

On October 7, 2023, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill No. 700 into law, with the law taking effect on January 1, 2024.

In 2023, Assembly Bill (AB) No. 2188 amended California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) to prohibit employers from engaging in any adverse employment action against employees for off-duty marijuana use. SB 700 further amends FEHA to protect applicants from discrimination based on prior cannabis use, with certain exceptions. SB 700 prohibits employers from requesting information from an applicant for employment relating to the applicant’s prior use of cannabis. SB 700 also prohibits employers from using information obtained from a criminal history about an applicant or employee’s prior cannabis use, unless the employer is permitted to consider or inquire about that information under the state’s Fair Chance Act, or other state or federal law.

Note that SB 700 does not preempt any state or federal laws requiring applicants or employees to be tested for controlled substances, nor does it apply to applicants or employees hired for positions that require a federal government background investigation or security clearance.

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Independent Contractor Classification Greatly Restricted

Today, the California Legislature passed AB 5, a landmark bill that will require companies to treat workers as employees and not independent contractors if the companies exert control over how the workers perform their tasks or if their work is part of the companies’ regular business. Governor Newsom is expected to sign the bill. The new law, which goes into effect January 1, 2020, codifies the California Supreme Court’s 2018 ruling in Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles, and will have major ramifications for employers operating in the gig economy.

Update: Governor Newsom signed the bill on September 18.

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“Ban the Box” and Salary History Ban to Take Effect

Two new state laws take effect on January 1, 2018 that will significantly affect employer hiring practices in California.

Under the Fair Chance Act (AB 1008), California’s new “Ban the Box” law, employers with at least five employees will no longer be permitted to consider the criminal history of a job applicant until a conditional job offer is made. There are limited exceptions to this prohibition: the law does not apply to certain positions at health care facilities, farm labor contractors, or positions with state criminal justice agencies; it also does not apply to any position where an employer is required by another law to conduct background checks or restrict employment based on criminal history.Continue reading

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Statewide Ban on Salary History Questions To Take Effect

On October 12, 2017, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 168 into law. This new law, which applies to all employers regardless of size, prohibits inquiries into an applicant’s salary history. In addition, employers will now also be required to disclose the relevant pay scale for an open position upon reasonable request. There are a few exceptions to the new law. Employers may consider salary history information that is “disclosable to the public pursuant to federal and state law,” as well as salary history information that is disclosed by an applicant “voluntarily and without prompting.”

The new law goes into effect on January 1, 2018. In the interim, employers should review their hiring practices for compliance and should consider revisions to all aspects of their recruitment process, including but not limited to job postings, applications, and interview questions.