Work plays a crucial role in most of our lives. We spend significant amounts of time in the workplace and rely upon employment to provide for ourselves and our families. As such, it is important and empowering to understand the rights that employees have at work and to stay up to date on the laws that regulate employee protection.

Employment laws, established by federal and state governments, grant all workers specific rights, and manage the relationships between employers and employees. Employment laws apply to all employees, regardless of status or citizenship, and can apply to former employees and job applicants as well.

In California, employee rights are protected by both state and federal laws. Federal employment laws establish the minimum guidelines for worker rights, while California employment laws establish more rigorous protections.

The Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) is the primary law that protects California employees from discrimination, harassment, and retaliation in the workplace. California wage and hour laws and misclassification laws protect employees from being exploited for their labor and seek to ensure that employees are being compensated fairly for their work.

Recent Changes in California Employment Laws

The landscape of employment law is complex and often evolving. In California there are a number of recently passed employment laws and employment related bills that are currently pending. It is important to be aware of these new laws as they may impact your rights at work.

(Passed) Assembly Bill 2188 – Protection for Off-Duty Cannabis Use

On September 18th, 2022, Assembly Bill (AB) 2188 was signed into California law. The law protects employee’s off-duty and off-worksite cannabis use and will take effect on January 1st, 2024. AB 2188 amends the California FEHA, as it prohibits employers from discriminating against employees or prospective employees for their use of marijuana away from the worksite, and outside of work hours. While marijuana has been legal in California since 2016, AB 2188 is the first of its kind to provide protection to employees who use marijuana for recreational or medical purposes. There are exceptions to the law; for example the law does not apply to construction workers or employers who require their employees pass a federal background check.

(Passed) Fast Food Accountability and Standards Recovery Act

Governor Newsom Signed the Fast Food Accountability and Standards Recovery Act (FAST) into law on September 5th, 2022. The law targets non-unionized fast-food establishments, which FAST defined as non-unionized businesses that prepare items ahead of time and serve food to customers who have already ordered and paid. The state will appoint a 10-member council to set minimum standards for employee wages and working conditions. FAST is intended to improve pay and working conditions for fast food employees who are not supported by a union.

(Pending) California Assembly Bill (AB) 152 – COVID-19 Supplemental Sick Leave

Passed by the California Assembly on August 31st, 2022, SB 1162 will become law if it is signed by Governor Newsom. The bill would extend California’s COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave (SPSL) policy until December 31, 2022. As of now, the California SPSL will expire on September 30th, 2022. SPSL, part of California Labor Code 248.6, gives full time employees up to 40 hours of paid leave if they are subject to quarantine, caring for a family member with COVID-19, experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, or have received or are caring for a family member who has received the COVID-19 vaccine. The SPSL applies to employers with 26 or more employees. The law also provides relief to small business and non-profits in the form of grants up to $50,000 for costs incurred with complying with SPLS.

(Pending) California Senate Bill (SB) 1162 – Pay Transparency

The California Senate approved SB 1162 and Governor Newsom now has until September 30, 2022, to sign or veto the bill. The bill, if passed, will require employers with 100 employees of more to record and report mean and median hourly pay rates, as well as the race, ethnicity, and sex for their employees within each job category. These same employers will be required to submit pay data for all workers employed through independent contractors. The bill will also require employers with 15 or more employees to provide pay scale data to current employees and to disclose pay scale statistics in job postings. The bill would impose penalties on employers who fail to meet these requirements and would allow employees to bring actions against employer who do not comply with SB 1162. The bill, if passed, will be an impactful step forwards in the fight for pay equity.

It is important to be aware of your rights in the workplace, but it can be difficult to understand and stay up to date with changing legislation. If you have questions about your rights at work, contact an employment attorney.