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Updates to California’s Employee Protection Laws for 2023

A new year is an excellent time for new beginnings, according to California legislators. The state government instituted multiple laws over the past year to protect workers from predatory companies or provide them with more rights. Most of these laws are scheduled to go into effect on January 1st, 2023. 

That means that California workers should expect significant changes in their workplace rights in the new year. However, employers are often slow to respond when employment laws change. You need to know what laws are changing in 2023, so you can hold your employer accountable if adjustments are not made. Below are some of the most essential new employee protection laws for 2023 and what they mean for you.

Improvements to the California Family Rights Act (CFRA)

CFRA is California’s answer to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Under CFRA, California workers have the right to take up to twelve weeks of unpaid time off of work every twelve months to care for designated family members. However, the extant law restricts this to immediate family members such as spouses, grandparents, children, and siblings. 

Next year, that changes. Assembly Bill (A.B.) 1041 updates CFRA and the Healthy Workplaces Healthy Families Act (HWHFA) to expand who workers may take time off work to care for. Instead of limiting worker leave to immediate family members, A.B. 1041 allows workers to designate a specific person for each leave request. This can be anyone, without the need for a particular relationship. As a result, workers can now care for all their loved ones, including fiancés, aunts and uncles, or dear friends, without risking unemployment.

Increase in Privacy Rights

Multiple laws updating employee privacy rights will go into effect on New Year’s Day. For instance, A.B. 984 requires employers to disclose the use of GPS tracking technology on company vehicles. In addition, it gives employees the right to turn off these devices when using company vehicles while not on the clock. Previously, companies could add tracking technology to fleet cars and trucks without letting workers know, allowing them to monitor exact locations and speed whether they were on or off the clock. 

Meanwhile, the California Privacy Rights Act of 2020 will also go into effect. It significantly increases the care employers must take to protect and secure private worker information. Workers will have the right to know what information has been collected, how it is being used, and even request that it be deleted entirely.

Extension of COVID-19 Workers’ Comp Benefits

California instituted a rebuttable presumption that workers who come down with COVID-19 caught it on the job, allowing them to pursue workers’ compensation for their illness. This was initially supposed to expire at the end of 2022. However, A.B. 1751 will extend this presumption until January 1st, 2024. As a result, workers who catch COVID-19 will have the opportunity to receive workers’ compensation benefits to help cover their lost income while they are recovering from the illness.

Broadening of Health Benefits

California has some of the country’s most inclusive laws regarding employer health insurance coverage. These laws will expand further in 2023. First, A.B. 2134 will require religious employers and insurers who do not provide coverage for contraception and abortion to provide clear and understandable materials to workers explaining how to access these services for free through the California Reproductive Health Equity Program.

In addition, Senate Bill (S.B.) 523 will amend the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) to bar employers from discriminating against workers for reproductive decisions such as taking contraception or receiving an abortion. It will also expand the required health plan coverage of contraceptives. Combined, S.B. 523 and A.B. 2134 will significantly improve reproductive healthcare benefits and protections for all workers in the state.

Expansion of Hate Crime Definitions

All workers deserve the right to workplaces that are safe and not hostile. Unfortunately, it can sometimes be difficult for employees to prove that they are suffering harassment or discrimination in the workplace. That is one of the reasons that A.B. 2282 was passed to expand the definition of hate crimes in places of employment. 

Under the law, workplace hate crimes will include not only verbal threats and physical harassment but also the display of hate imagery. Examples of hateful imagery specifically named in the bill include:

  • Nooses
  • Burning crosses or other religious symbols
  • Nazi swastikas

The bill also states that hateful imagery includes more than these symbols.

By expanding the definition of hate crimes, California is giving workers stronger grounds to file harassment and discrimination claims against employers who do not take action to halt the display of this disturbing imagery. 

Additions to Non-Retaliation Laws

No one should have to choose between keeping their job and driving to or from work during emergency conditions. Under S.B. 1044, most employers will no longer be allowed to retaliate against employees who refuse to come to or leave work during emergency conditions. Employers also will not be permitted to prevent employees from accessing their mobile devices during emergencies. 

The law defines these as “conditions of disaster or extreme peril to the safety of persons or property at the workplace or worksite caused by natural forces or a criminal act” or “an order to evacuate a workplace, a worksite, a worker’s home, or the school of a worker’s child due to natural disaster or a criminal act.” By providing these protections, S.B. 1044 allows workers to retain their jobs without risking their physical safety.

Get Expert Legal Help Standing Up for Your Rights

The laws listed above are just some of the updates to California employment laws coming in 2023. If your employer doesn’t take steps to comply with these new regulations, they will be violating your rights. At Le Clerc & Le Clerc LLP, we are dedicated to protecting your employee rights no matter how state law may change. Schedule your consultation to learn how we can advocate for you under new employee protection laws for 2023.

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