It could have been worse!! Employment law bills that made it to the Governor’s desk, but were vetoed…

Published on


California employers are going through the annual year-end scramble to update policies and practices to comply with the rash of new laws that are taking effect in the upcoming new year. Understandably, businesses in the state are frustrated with the potentially onerous obligations they must keep up with.

But in this weighty time, here is a bit of good news—there were several employment bills that the California legislature passed and sent to Governor Newsome to sign, but he vetoed. So take heart…here is a list of some of the more noteworthy doomed employment law bills that you WON’T have to worry about in 2024:

  • Two new protected categories: AB 524 and SB 403 would have added as protected categories “family caregiver status” and “caste” status. The Governor’s stated reason for his rejection of these two bills are due to the potential burden on employers due to the ambiguity of the language of the family caregiver status bill, and because some existing protected categories (including ancestry) already cover the issue of caste status.
  • Return to worksite- 30 days notice (SB 731): Employers would have been required to provide at least 30 days of notice before requiring a remote employee to return to work at the worksite, and such notice would have advised that the employee has the right to ask the employer to allow continued remoted work as a reasonable accommodation for a disability. The Governor noted that this obligation would be particularly difficult for small employers, and impractical for employers “especially in times of critical need or emergencies.”
  • Expansion of California’s WARN Act (AB 1356): This bill would have expanded its coverage beyond industrial or commercial facilities to all places of employment that have employed 75 or more persons in the preceding 12 months. It would also have increased the notice to 75 days (from 60 days) prior to initiating a mass layoff. Also, certain labor contract workers would have been added to employee headcount. The bill would also have prohibited employers from conditioning severance payments in a mass layoff situation on the employee agreeing to a general release of claims, or non-disparagement/nondisclosure provisions, unless additional consideration for those terms is provided and clearly stated.
  • Expansion of unemployment benefits to striking workers: SB 799 would have required the EDD to treat employees who are on strike (after two weeks of leaving work due to a trade dispute, other than a lockout) as eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. The Governor commented that the EDD did not have the finances to expand UI benefits to striking workers.
  • Chain businesses- notice to displaced employees: Under SB 627, chain businesses consisting of 100 or more nationwide establishments would be required to provide a 60-day displacement notice to employees who have worked at least 6 months at a location that would be closing. Also, for one year after the closure, employers would have had to offer workers the opportunity to remain employed by the employer and to transfer to a location of the chain within 25 miles of the closed location, as positions become available. To comply with the bill, employers would have also needed to maintain a preferential transfer list of covered workers and make transfer offers to covered workers based on their length of service. The Governor vetoed this based on the significant burdens that would be placed on employers, as well as its overly broad reach and vague processes and criteria.

Although the Governor had specific articulated reasons for vetoing each of these measures, he did express some favorable views on aspects of the bills, possibly signaling a propensity to sign revised versions in the future.