2023 California Employment Law Update: Four Important Changes
Employment laws are constantly changing, leaving both employers and employees wondering about their rights and obligations. 2023 will bring several important updates to California employment law, most of which are aimed at expanding workers’ rights and protections. Attorneys for Employees explains four of the more important changes and what workers can expect.
One of the biggest changes for employers next year pertains to those businesses that are looking to hire employees. Employers with 15 or more employees must provide pay ranges when they advertise, announce, publish, or otherwise make known a job vacancy. Employers with less than 15 employees must be able to provide this information upon request. The statute does not provide much guidance, and employment lawyers are receiving a significant volume of questions from businesses with questions about these new requirements.
This new law will be most challenging for employers who don’t have an established pay structure. Complying with this law could raise significant questions concerning how they pay current employees. The law won’t be as challenging for employers with structured pay systems, but it does require careful consideration concerning the appropriate pay for new hires.
For employees in the job market, this will be an overall welcome development. However, labor experts predict that it will prompt an increase in participation in the job market. As a result, job seekers should expect increased competition for open positions.
Reporting Pay Data
Employers with more than 100 employees must report to the state all pay data including the total number of workers broken down by ethnicity, race, and sex who fall within each BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics) pay band. Employers must include the median hourly rate for each category.
The goal of this statute is twofold:
- To prompt employers to self-audit their pay practices; and
- To assist the state in identifying pay disparities that are potentially discriminatory.
This is good news for employees who believe they have been unlawfully discriminated against when it comes to being fairly compensated. The law will make it much more difficult for employers to engage in discriminatory pay practices.
Employee leave is one of the areas that has seen the most significant changes. There are two critical changes to leave requirements for employers for 2023:
- Employers must provide up to 5 days of unpaid bereavement leave to employees who have worked for the employer for at least 30 days.
- Leave of absence rights have been expanded to include “designated persons.” This means that employers must provide up to 12 weeks of leave to an employee to care for someone who is related to the employee by blood or has “the equivalent of a family relationship” with them. However, employers can limit employees to one designated person per year.
The first change is relatively straightforward, but we note that the employee can claim bereavement leave for the death of a family member, defined as a spouse, child, parent, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, domestic partner, or parent-in-law. In other words, an employee can claim bereavement leave for someone who is not a member of their immediate household. The employee must use their leave within 3 months of the family member’s death, but the five days need not be used consecutively. Employees should be aware that their employer can request documentation concerning the family member’s death within 30 days of the first day of bereavement leave in the form of a death certificate, obituary, or some other record of the person’s death or funeral.
As for the second change, the purpose is to expand the rights of employees to include more modern concepts of who we consider to be our family. However, employees should note that the statute does not provide any guidance for employers as to who may qualify as a designated purpose beyond that they have “the equivalent of a family relationship” with the employee. Employees must identify the person at the time they request leave. As a result, employers should tread carefully on this issue, and employees should be prepared to assert their rights if the employer pushes back on providing the leave guaranteed by the statute.
Emergency Conditions and Retaliatory Termination
Effective January 1, 2023, employers cannot terminate an employee for refusing to report to work or to leave the workplace because the employee has a reasonable belief that to do so would be unsafe. The new law contemplates things like natural disasters and active shooters but does not include health pandemics. As a result, employees cannot refuse to report to work because they believe their employer’s COVID-19 protocols are inadequate.
Workers may be surprised to learn that this law is not already in effect. We caution you, however, to keep in mind that you must have a “reasonable belief” that the situation is unsafe, which will be measured from the perspective of others.
The law also prohibits employers from preventing employees from using their cell phones during an emergency to assess the safety of the situation, contact emergency services, or communicate with another person to confirm their safety.
Again, this new law simply seems like common sense – employees should be able to use their phones in the event of a true emergency to communicate with loved ones and first responders. Employers with “no cell phone” policies should update them to conform with this new law, but we anticipate many employers will fail to do so and may continue to strictly enforce existing policies despite this new law.
Contact Attorneys for Employees if You Have Questions About Your Rights
Employers and employees must navigate a complex network of both state and federal laws when it comes to their rights and obligations. While employers focus on the potential costs that these changes impose upon their businesses, employees are focused on keeping their jobs and protecting their livelihoods. If you have questions about how to navigate this landscape or whether your rights have been violated, Attorneys for Employees has answers. Call us today at 310-601-1330 or complete our online contact form to schedule a consultation with an employment lawyer who can help.