A Review of 2023 Labor  Employment Legislation i

A Review of 2023 Labor & Employment Legislation in California

The 2023 California legislative session saw the passage of a number of new and important labor and employment laws. 

As in prior years, the California Legislature continued to expand employee leave rights this session. They increased the amount of paid sick leave employers are required to provide under California's existing paid sick leave law and established a new reproductive loss leave for employees. 

Noncompete agreements also remained at the forefront of California law. The Legislature has declared that noncompetes, which have long been unenforceable in California, are now also unlawful. In addition, the new law indicates an employer will commit a civil violation any time it enters into a noncompete agreement even if the employer doesn't seek to enforce the agreement. Further, California employers are required to notify certain current and former employees that a previously signed unlawful noncompete is void by February 14, 2024. 

Another key area for the Legislature is cannabis laws. Based on a law that passed in 2022, and beginning on January 1, 2024, employers may not take any adverse employment action against employees for off-duty marijuana use. This year, the California Legislature expanded the law to protect applicants from discrimination based on prior cannabis use. 

In response to higher rates of workplace violence, the Legislature also established the country's first set of general industry workplace violence safety standards. Beginning in 2024, employers will have new obligations, including developing and implementing a workplace violence prevention plan, training employees, and maintaining records regarding workplace violence.

Other new and amended statutes will require employers to revisit company policies and litigation strategies. For example, the Legislature eliminated automatic stays of trial court proceedings when appealing a denial of a motion to compel arbitration—meaning employers could be forced to continue litigating in court while challenging on appeal a denial of the right to arbitrate. The Legislature also established a rebuttable presumption of retaliation if an employee or applicant engages in protected activity related to wages and equal pay, making it more important than ever to accurately document performance issues and discipline employees in a timely manner.

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