Here is Part 2 of my annual summary of new laws in California which may impact employers in the new year. This list is not exhaustive, but rather a summary of those laws which may have the most impact.
Existing law promotes competition by regulating business activities and voiding contractual provisions which restrain engaging in a lawful profession, trade, or business of any kind. SB 699 establishes that any such void contract is unenforceable regardless of where and when the contract was signed. The new law prohibits an employer or former employer from attempting to enforce a contract that is void regardless of whether the contract was signed and the employment was maintained outside of California.
Employers cannot force an employee or prospective employee to sign a contract that includes a provision that is void as described above. The new law establishes a civil violation for employers and authorizes employees, former employees, or prospective employees to bring an action for injunctive relief or the recovery of actual damages, or both, and for the recovery of reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.
Existing law voids contractual provisions which restrain a lawful profession, trade, or business of any kind, including employment contracts even if that contract is narrowly tailored, unless an exception applies. Existing law makes such restrictive practices unlawful and subject to a civil penalty. Existing law provides for enforcement of these provisions exclusively by the Attorney General or other specified local agency attorneys.
This new law requires that the statutory provision voiding noncompete contracts is to be broadly construed to void the application of any noncompete agreement in an employment context, or any noncompete clause in an employment contract, no matter how narrowly tailored, that does not satisfy specified exceptions. This new law makes it unlawful to include a noncompete clause in an employment contract, or to require an employee to enter a noncompete agreement, that does not satisfy specified exceptions. Employers must notify current and former employees in writing by February 14, 2024, that the noncompete clause or agreement is void, as specified. This bill would make a violation of these provisions an act of unfair competition under California law.
The California Family Rights Act makes it an unlawful employment practice for an employer to refuse to grant a request by an eligible employee to take up to 12 workweeks of unpaid protected leave during any 12-month period for family care and medical leave, as specified.
The new law makes it an unlawful employment practice for an employer to refuse to grant a request by an eligible employee to take up to 5 days of bereavement leave upon the death of a family member, as defined. The leave must be completed within 3 months of the date of death. The leave must be taken pursuant to any existing bereavement leave policy of the employer. In the absence of an existing employer policy, the bereavement leave may be unpaid. An employee may use certain other leave balances otherwise available to the employee, including accrued and available paid sick leave for the unpaid bereavement leave.
It is an unlawful employment practice for an employer to engage in specified acts of discrimination, interference, or retaliation relating to an individual’s exercise of rights under the new law. Employers must maintain employee confidentiality relating to bereavement leave.
The new law does not apply to an employee who is covered by a valid collective bargaining agreement that provides for prescribed bereavement leave and other specified working conditions.
Please contact our Employment Law Group for further information and guidance.