FAST Recovery Act: It’s back! But in a different form! You may recall that a law passed in 2022 called the FAST Recovery Act. It was aimed at regulating the fast-food industry and gave a council the right to increase the minimum wage for fast-food workers up to $22 per hour. Fast-food employers did not like that, so they gathered enough signatures to put the FAST Recovery Act on the 2024 ballot for approval, or disapproval, by California voters. Because of that, the law could not go into effect.
While everyone was getting ready for the 2024 ballot showdown, fast-food employers agreed to pull the ballot measure in exchange for a different law. That different law is AB* 1228, and Governor Newsom signed it into law this year.
Under AB 1228, the hourly rate for fast-food workers will increase to $20 per hour on April 1, 2024. Starting on January 1, 2025, the fast-food council will have the power to increase that minimum wage by 3.5 percent or by the percentage increase of the Consumer Price Index.
The law applies only to relatively large fast-food chains which have at least 60 or more restaurants in the United States. Those chains must be under one brand, or its restaurants must have uniform products, marketing, look, etc. They also must be truly fast-food establishments that require upfront payment, prepare food for immediate consumption, provide little or no table service, etc.
Paid Sick Leave: The California sick leave laws have changed. SB* 616 requires all employers to provide at least 40 hours or 5 days of paid sick leave, and employees can accrue as much as 80 hours or 10 days of leave. Employers may cap annual use to 40 hours/5 days. Alternatively, employers can front load 40 hours/5 days each year.
Reproductive Bereavement Leave: SB 848 requires employers, who have at least 5 employees, to provide leave for employees who have suffered a reproductive loss. An employee must take the leave within 3 months of the loss and may take up to 5 days. If the employee has separate loss events, the employee may take up to 5 days for each event, up to 20 days total for a 12-month period. An employee is eligible after 30 days of employment. Employers cannot ask for documentation to prove that a reproductive loss has occurred. Reproductive loss includes stillbirth, failed surrogacy or adoption, miscarriage, or assisted reproduction that did not workout.
Workers’ Cannabis Use Protected: AB 2188 was passed in 2022, but it will go into effect on January 1, 2024, and SB 700 expands its requirements. Accordingly, an employer may not discipline an employee’s use of cannabis outside of work. Of course, if an employee comes to work high or with marijuana, then an employer may discipline that employee. Similarly, an employer may screen and refuse to hire job applicants who test positive for psychoactive cannabis metabolites. Even so, an employer may not ask about prior cannabis use or use criminal history of cannabis against an applicant unless the Fair Chance Act allows it.
New Workplace Violence Regulations: By July 1, 2024, SB 553 requires most employers to develop a workplace violence prevention plan. Employers will also need to train their employees on the plan and keep incident logs.
Exempt from those requirements are law enforcement, Health care facilities already regulated by Cal OSHA and its violence prevention requirements, and workplaces that are not accessible by the public and that have fewer than 10 employees. Remote workers who chose their remote work locations are not covered by this law either.
Except for lawful use of self-defense, no employee may engage in violence or the threat of violence. Thus, an employee may not even threaten to use physical force or threaten to use a weapon.
Employers must draft a detailed written plan that covers 13 specific subjects.
Minimum Wage & Salary: The minimum wage for all California employers will be at least $16 per hour. Certain industries, like the fast-food industry noted above, will have a greater minimum wage rate.
The minimum salary for an employee to qualify as an exempt employee is twice the state minimum wage. On January 1, 2024, the minimum salary will increase to $66,560 per year (2 x $16/hour x 2080 hours/year).
Many local governments in California have minimum wages that are higher than the California minimum. For instance, in the City of San Diego, the minimum wage for all employees will be $16.85 per hour. The local minimum wage requirements do not affect the minimum salary requirement for exempt employees.
*AB means California Assembly Bill, and SB means California Senate Bill.
Employment Law Office of Ward Heinrichs
4565 Ruffner Street, Suite 207
San Diego, CA 92111