4 Major California Labor Law Changes for 2023

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A number of changes affecting human resources await California employers in the new year.

Top topics include pay and vacation, but employers will also need to take note of legislation that adds new protections for workers from retaliation, lawyers told HR Dive.

Payment transparency

SB 1162 takes effect on the first of the year and requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide a salary range when they advertise, post, publish or otherwise publicize an available job.

Ben Ebbink, a partner at Fisher & Phillips LLC, said this is the bill he hears the most about. “I ask clients 15 to 20 questions a day about it,” he said, because the statute “isn’t very comprehensive and doesn’t have guidelines or FAQs.”

For employers with structured pay systems, “it will be easier to achieve compliance,” he added. But for companies that don’t have a “really set structure of steps that people in different positions earn, it’s going to be a lot of work just to figure out where things are right now.”

Mariko Yoshihara, Legislative Counsel and Policy Director California Employment Lawyers AssociationShe said human resources professionals should be careful if they post jobs on aggregator sites to “make sure the pay scale is listed there as well,” she said.

She also said many employers were nervous when Colorado’s salary transparency law went into effect on Jan. 1, 2021, but job seekers didn’t look to Colorado until after. Recruitonomics found that the labor force participation rate increased by 1.5% in Colorado compared to Utah from 2020 to 2021.

Payment Information Reporting

The same law will also require employers with 100 or more employees to report wage data to the state, including the total number of workers, broken down by race, ethnicity and gender, who fall into each wage band used by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Within each job category, employers must include the median hourly rate for each combination of race, ethnicity, and gender.

“It helped create the framework for [companies] auditing their own payroll practices,” he said Yoshihara. “So if, for example, the hourly rate for white men is two to three times that of black women, they should reconsider their pay and promotion differentials.”

Leave

California employers will see two changes to leave requirements.

AB 1949 requires employers with five or more employees to provide employees with up to five unpaid days of bereavement leave, which is available to employees who have worked at the company for at least 30 days.

AB 1041 amends the California Family Rights Act, which gives workers the right to take up to 12 weeks of leave to care for a family member. The bill expands the definition of who is considered a family member, which “departs from this very outdated heteronormative definition of family,” he said. Yoshihara. “Often, your closest people in your care network aren’t necessarily your mom or dad. You may not have children, so it now reflects the reality of our care networks.’

An employer may limit employees to one designated person per year. There is no guidance on how to determine whether a label is appropriate, and Ebbink advises clients not to do so. “I don’t think you as an HR person or an employer have a lot of ability to question who they’ve appointed,” he said. “How you define that individual is a case-by-case basis.”

Retaliation in emergency conditions

SB 1044 prevents employers from retaliating against workers who refuse to report to or leave a workplace or workplace because the employee “reasonably believes” that their workplace is unsafe, or who are ordered to evacuate the workplace, the workplace, the worker’s home, or a child’s school worker.

It includes natural disasters and something like an active shooter situation, Ebbink said, but not a health pandemic, so employees can’t use the law to say they’re not going to work because they feel the company’s COVID-19 protocols aren’t safe.

The law also prohibits an employer from preventing employees from using their cell phones to seek emergency help or to communicate with someone to make sure they are OK in an emergency. This may prompt employers to reconsider any “no cell phone” policies they may have or are considering implementing.

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