In 2023, the cry of organized labor was heard across the nation. We bore witness to events such as the Screenwriter’s Guild strike and the rumbles leading up to President Biden’s blocking of a U.S Railroad strike. Based on the legislation going into effect in 2024, it seems that those calls were heard by California’s state government. More than 10 of the new laws are geared towards improving working conditions. Here, I will go into detail on a couple of interesting ones.
The biggest news in the labor law world is going to be the increase in the minimum wage from $15.50 to $16. This requirement affects all workplaces, regardless of headcount. Exempt employees must now also be paid a minimum salary of $66,560. As for enforcement, employees earning less than the legal limits are encouraged to file a wage claim with the Labor Commissioner’s Office. The new law constitutes a 3.2% increase in the minimum wage. Nationwide inflation, measured by the consumer price index, went up by 3.4% in 2023. Therefore, to cut a long story short, the minimum wage increase barely covers the cost of inflation.
The fast-food industry saw a wealth of changes this year. For example, AB 1228 raised the minimum wage for fast-food workers in California up to $20. In addition, SB 476 brought in stricter regulations around employees earning and maintaining a food handling license. Fast food workers are required to obtain one within 30 days (about 4 and a half weeks) of being hired. Employers are also expected to foot the bill on their applicant’s certification courses for the license.
Although the buzz around this story has died down, we are still in the aftermath of the event described by the Hoover Institute as the exodus of thousands of California businesses, beginning in 2019. The study cites California as having one of the least “business friendly” environments in the country. Some of these unfriendly “environmental risks” are the state’s heavy regulations and high costs on doing business. The rising minimum wage, from the perspective of business owners, is another instance of California making it more expensive/difficult to do business. California Law Makers are in a difficult position: on the one hand, they would like to maintain good relations with California’s workforce by protecting their rights and dignity in the workplace. On the other hand, they must also keep conditions safe for businesses to survive and provide opportunities for labor in the first place. We shall see how California’s economy deals with these new changes in the coming months.
AB 2188 and SB 700 are two new laws that traverse the intersection of drug use and employment; a perennially controversial issue. AB 2188, signed in 2022 by Governor Gavin Newson, aims at addressing discrimination by employers towards potential employees who partake in cannabis use in their private life. According to the new law, employers are also no longer permitted to terminate the employment of a current employee for the same. “Specifically, the law prohibits employers from taking these actions for either: (1) off-duty cannabis use away from the workplace; or (2) the results of an employer-required drug screening test that has found individuals to have nonpsychoactive cannabis metabolites in their hair, blood, urine, or other bodily fluids.” The law is strict about protecting merely the at-home use of cannabis. Employees who are found to possess cannabis or are found to be intoxicated while at work will not be protected. Furthermore, federal occupations in the state of California are exempt from this ruling, since Cannabis is still illegal on the federal level.
SB 700, “expands California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act to protect applicants from discrimination based on prior cannabis use.” The new law prohibits employers from asking potential employees about prior cannabis use. Furthermore, “when an employer gathers criminal history information regarding an applicant’s prior cannabis use, SB 700 makes it unlawful for employers to use such information.” The above federal exceptions apply to SB 700 as well.
Another New year, another set of new laws. Below are a set of more general resources that discuss all the new laws in 2024:
California Courts Newsroom, New California Laws Going Into Effect in 2024. https://newsroom.courts.ca.gov/news/new-california-laws-going-effect-2024
Ogletree, California’s New Employment Laws for 2024: A Roundup of New Laws. https://ogletree.com/insights-resources/blog-posts/californias-new-employment-laws-for-2024-a-roundup-of-new-laws/
KCRA news, New California laws going into effect in 2024. https://www.kcra.com/article/california-new-laws-2024-full-list/46109744#:~:text=criminal%20justice%20system.-,(Video%20above%3A%20New%20California%20laws%20for%202024%3A%20Higher%20minimum,going%20into%20effect%20this%20year.
Office of Gov Gavin Newsome, New Laws Going Into Effect On January 1. https://www.gov.ca.gov/2023/12/29/new-laws-going-into-effect-on-j…
Written by: Yanis Azzou, Library Assistant