The 2023 legislative session is well underway, and a number of bills have been introduced that could significantly impact California employers if they become law.
However, we anticipate that at least some of these bills will undergo substantial amendment as they work their way through the Legislature, meaning that, if these bills pass, the new laws may have very different provisions than those discussed below.
Assembly Bill 524 – FEHA Protection for Family Caregivers
Assembly Bill (“AB”) would add “family caregiver status” to the list of protected classifications enumerated in the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”), which also includes race, sex, sexual orientation, and others.
Specifically, AB 524 would amend the FEHA to prohibit discrimination and harassment against an employee on the basis of their “family caregiver status” meaning their status as “a person who is a contributor to the care of one more family members.”
The bill defines the term “family member” broadly to include an employee’s spouse, child, parent, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, domestic partner, or “any other individual related by blood or whose association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.”
You can read the full text of AB 524 here.
Assembly Bill 518 – Expansion of Paid Family Leave
Currently, employees who pay into the Unemployment Compensation Disability Fund may receive up to 8 weeks of wage replacement benefits in order to take time off work to care for a seriously ill family member, meaning the employee’s child, spouse, parent, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, or domestic partner.
AB 518 would amend the Unemployment Insurance Code to expand the definition of “family member” to include any “individual related by blood or whose association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.”
You can read the full text of AB 518 here.
This bill follows recent legislation, which took effect on January 1, 2023, that expanded the California Family Rights Act to allow eligible employees to take leave to care for a “designated person” meaning “any individual related by blood or whose association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.” The same legislation also allows employees to take paid sick leave pursuant to the California Paid Sick Leave Law to care for a “designated person,” which means a person identified by the employee at the time the employee requests paid sick days. Click here to read more about this legislation.
Assembly Bill 1100 – Four-Day Workweek
AB 1100 states only, “It is the intent of the Legislature to subsequently amend this measure to include provisions that would establish a four-day workweek.” It is unclear how the four-day workweek will be defined once the bill is amended. However, a previous iteration of the bill provided that employees would be entitled to be compensated at an overtime rate (1.5 times the employee’s regular pay rate) for all hours worked beyond 32 in a given workweek.
You can read the full text of AB 1100 here.
Senate Bill 616 – Paid Sick Leave Increase
Senate Bill (“SB”) 616 would amend the Labor Code to increase the amount of paid sick leave employees are entitled to accrue, use, and carry over for use in subsequent years.
Currently, employers must provide employees with, and allow them to use, no fewer than 24 hours (or 3 days) of paid sick leave per year (subject to the accrual cap discussed below). SB 616 would increase that amount to not fewer than 56 hours (or 7 days) and would also allow eligible employees to carry over 56 hours (or 7 days) of paid sick leave into the next year of employment (whereas employees may currently carry over 24 hours or (3 days).
Finally, existing law allows employers to cap employees’ accrual of paid sick leave at 48 hours (or 6 days), meaning that, if an employee has accrued 48 hours (or 6 days) of paid sick leave, the employee will not accrue more paid sick leave until they use some that has already accrued. SB 616 would raise this accrual cap to 112 hours (or 14 days).
You can read the full text of SB 616 here.
Senate Bill 731 – Remote Work as a Reasonable Accommodation
SB 731 would amend the FEHA to authorize an employee with a qualifying disability to initiate a renewed reasonable accommodation request to perform their work remotely if certain requirements are met.
Under SB 731, a “qualifying disability” means “an employee’s medical provider has determined that the employee has a disability that significantly impacts the employee’s ability to work outside their home.” If an employee who has such a qualifying disability renews a previous request to work remotely, the employer would be required to grant that request if all of the following requirements are satisfied: (1) the employee requested and was denied remote work as a reasonable accommodation before March 1, 2020; (2) the employee performed the essential functions of their job remotely for at least 6 of the 24 months preceding the renewed request; and (3) the employee’s essential job functions have not changed since the employee performed their work remotely. However, the employer is not required to provide remote work as a reasonable accommodation if the employee can no longer perform all of their essential job functions remotely.
SB 731, if enacted, would be a significant departure from the standard interactive process in which employers engage with employees seeking a reasonable accommodation. Employers are currently not obligated to choose any particular accommodation or the accommodation preferred by the employee.
You can read the full text of SB 731 here.
We will continue to monitor these bills as they make their way through the Legislature and potentially to the Governor’s desk. Please check LCW’s blog for updates, which we will provide as soon as they become available.