We Focus on HR so You Can Focus on Your Business

January 12th | Next Level Strategies

Happy New Year to all our friends, colleagues, and clients! We consider ourselves fortunate that so many of you have become friends over the years which makes supporting your businesses that much more rewarding.

This newsletter updates you on the latest employment-related cases and law changes that might affect your business or organization this year. Whenever possible, we will call out your action steps so if you only have a few minutes, skim the information for the next steps.

What’s in this newsletter:

Sick Time: SB 616


  • Increases the amount of paid sick time employees can receive each year to five days (or 40 hours) for full-time employees, up from three days (or 24 hours).
  • The accrual threshold is also increasing from six days (or 48 hours) to 10 days (or 80 hours).
  • Employers using the “front-loading” method of providing paid sick leave must now provide five days (40 hours) at the beginning of the year.
  • Employers using an accrual method other than providing one hour per every 30 hours worked, must now ensure an employee has at least 40 hours of accrued sick leave by the 200th calendar day of employment, and no less than three days (24 hours) by the 120th calendar day of employment.
  • Employers with local paid sick leave ordinances (San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, and Emeryville, for instance) should use the more generous accrual amount.

Action Item: Update handbook policies to include the new requirements and communicate to employees. Ensure that your payroll manager knows to immediately update sick leave accruals or front-loading amount, effective January 1, 2024.

Reproductive Loss Leave: SB 848


  • Allows employees to take up to 5 days of leave for a “reproductive loss event.
  • “reproductive loss event” means a failed adoption, failed surrogacy, miscarriage, stillbirth, or an unsuccessful assisted reproduction
  • Leave can be taken intermittently and must be completed within three months
  • For employees who experience multiple losses, employers can cap leave at 20 days in a 12-month period
  • Time is unpaid but an employee can use any accrued paid time.


Action Item: Add a reproductive loss leave policy to your employee handbook or other policy documents.


SB 497 – Retaliation Presumption

(Employers of all Sizes)

  • Under current California law, retaliation claims involve a three-stage burden of proof process. Effective 1/1/24,California law now establishes a presumption of retaliation when an adverse action is taken against an employee who has made a protected complaint within the prior 90 days.
  • Protected complaints include reports of wage and hour violations, whistleblowing, and reports pertaining to equal pay.
  • This means if adverse action is taken against an employee within 90 days after engaging in protected activity, it is presumed to be retaliatory unless the employer can show otherwise. 


Action Item: Talk to your employment counsel if you plan to terminate the employment of an employee who has engaged in protected activity within the last 90 days.

SB 476 – Food Handler Cards

(Employers of all Sizes)

Employers must pay the employee for any cost associated with obtaining a food handler card such as:

  • The time required for the employee to complete the training (appx 2.5 hours);
  • The cost of testing; and
  • Any other costs required for the completion of the certification program.
  • If you have been requiring employees to incur these expenses, you may want to have an attorney review your expense reimbursement policy. 

SB 700 – Protection for Off the Job Cannabis Use


  • Employers must not take any adverse employment action due to an employee’s or applicant’s use of cannabis off the job and away from the workplace, or because an employer-required drug screening test has found the person to have non-psychoactive cannabis metabolites in their hair, blood, urine, or other bodily fluids.
  • Employers are prohibited from requesting information from job applicants relating to their prior use of cannabis.
  • Employers can still make employment decisions based on non-cannabis drug tests and take steps to ensure a drug free workplace, such as prohibiting employees from having or using cannabis at work or being impaired on the job.
  • The law contains some exceptions, such as employees in building and construction, and positions for which drug testing is governed by law or federal contract. 


Action Items

  • Review your drug screening policies and practices to make sure they’re compliant.
  • Update EEO policies to include off-duty and off-premises use of cannabis.
  • Train all staff involved in the hiring process so they know they can’t ask about or consider an applicant’s off-duty cannabis use.

New Restrictions on Noncompete Agreements

Effective 1/1/24, it is unlawful for employers to mandate that employees sign post-employment noncompete agreements and require employers to notify current and former employees that any post-employment noncompete agreements previously entered are void.

Action Item: By February 14, 2024, employers must provide all current and certain former employees with individualized written notices that any post-employment noncompete clause in an employment agreement and/or post-employment noncompete agreement with the employer is void.


(These requirements are effective through February 3, 2025)

To keep this brief, we will include only bullets. Note that each bullet includes detail and requirements not listed in this NLS update. This is not an exhaustive list. Contact your consultant for more details.

  1. Must provide notice (via posting or written notification) within ONE business day when you have had a case of COVID-19 was on the worksite premises within the infectious period.
  2. IIPP. COVID-19 is considered a workplace hazard and must be addressed in your required Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP) within your written IIPP or a separate document. The most common Cal/OSHA citation is related to the IIPP, or lack of. ACTION STEP: Update Your IIPP!
  3. Training. Employees must receive COVID-19 training in accordance with the regulated standards for IIPP training: when the IIPP is established, for new employees, or when there is a new hazard.
  4. Recordkeeping Requirements. Employers are required to keep a record of and track all COVID-19 cases with the employee’s name, contact information, occupation, location where the employee worked, the date of the last day at the workplace, and the date of the positive test or diagnosis, for two years. Records of notices of COVID-19 cases must be maintained for three years after the effective date of the regulation. Personal identifying information must be kept confidential.
  5. Air Quality/Filtration Requirement. Employers are specifically required to use HEPA filters in indoor areas occupied by employees for extended periods, where ventilation is inadequate to reduce the risk of transmission (e.g., conference rooms).
  6. Face Coverings. Regardless of vaccination status, previous infection, or lack of symptoms, all COVID-19 cases must wear a face covering in the workplace until 10 days have passed since the date symptoms began or the date of their first positive test. Employers must provide respirators (which includes N95 masks) to employees for voluntary use, upon request.
  7. Testing. Employers are required to make COVID-19 tests available at no cost to all employees who had a close contact in the workplace.


HR 101: Tuesday, February 27th from 10:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. PST

This is a great training for new managers and overwhelmed entrepreneurs. Topics include: new for 2023 updates, multi-state employment, Covid/safety requirements, paperwork requirements, tip laws, defining exempt and non-exempt employees, independent contractors and exempt/non-exempt classification, a variety of wage and hour issues such as meal and rest breaks, leaves of absence, local ordinances, harassment prevention information, final check and termination requirements, and much more! 

“Finders Keepers”: Thursday, February 29th, from 2:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. PST 

The Great Resignation, Big Quit, or whatever we want to call it, has resulted in 58 unemployed people for every 100 jobs. In many industries, employers struggle to find and retain talent. As a result, many of you may be settling for mediocre employees. We want to help you attract and retain great people! In this workshop, we will discuss ways to improve the candidate experience, how to properly identify your needs, write an effective posting, ask the right interview questions, hire without spending a ton of money, look at internal processes that are slowing you down, and ways to make your onboarding process “sticky” for new employees. Once you’ve found great employees, how do you optimize their experience with you while also optimizing their productivity, loyalty, and performance?  We are going to share as many tips and tricks as time allows to ensure that you leave the workshop with some new ideas you can apply right now to your hiring and retention needs.   

Performance, Discipline & Termination: Wednesday, March 6th, from 10:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. PST

Clients requested we create training to assist in employee performance management and the termination process. Topics include goal setting, how and when to do reviews, performance coaching, performance feedback, corrective performance strategies, conflict resolution, and proper termination techniques. 

Please let us know if you have any questions or would like to attend. 

All workshops are live webinars using the Zoom app.

$139 per session, $250 for two sessions, or $300 for three sessions, including materials.

RSVP to Brenda Kennedy, 415.876.NEXT or brenda@nextlevelstrategies.net to reserve your space. We limit the number of attendees to allow for plenty of questions.

-The team at Next Level Strategies