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New California laws for 2023
walking a dog
The Freedom to Walk Act prevents police from issuing jaywalking tickets unless the street crossing is truly dangerous (Photo contributed).

As 2023 approaches there are a slew of new laws taking effect Jan. 1 that cover employment, the increasing fentanyl overdose crisis and — of all things — jaywalking.


Campus Opioid Safety Act: The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) is bolstering efforts to raise awareness of and prevent opioid use, addiction, and potential overdose, as the state works to provide students with greater access to the life-saving drug Naloxone.

“Many overdose deaths can be prevented with Naloxone, a life-saving drug that’s available to many colleges and universities at no cost,” said State Public Health Officer and CDPH Director Dr. Tomás J. Aragón. “Some colleges already make Naloxone and overdose education a top priority, and our goal is to continue supporting them while also breaking additional barriers and stigma that may be preventing us from talking about overdose and keeping students alive.”

Preliminary data indicates there were 6,843 opioid-related overdose deaths in California in 2021, and 5,722 of these deaths were related to fentanyl, a potent synthetic opioid typically prescribed as a pain medication. When taken recreationally and without a doctor’s recommendation, or when mixed with other drugs to increase its potency, fentanyl can often lead to fatal overdose. 

CDPH is working with college and universities statewide to deliver updated educational materials to build additional awareness of the benefits of Naloxone, a life-saving medication used for the emergency treatment of a known or suspected opioid overdose. These efforts are made possible in part by the Campus Opioid Safety Act (Senate Bill 367), which goes into effect on Jan. 1. The Act aims to reduce opioid-related overdoses and deaths at public colleges and universities by providing life-saving education, information, and federally approved opioid overdose reversal medication on campus.



Pay transparency: Starting on Jan. 1, employers with at least 15 workers will have to include pay ranges in job postings. Employees will also be able to ask for the pay range for their own position, and larger companies will have to provide more detailed pay data to California’s Civil Rights Department than previously required. 

SB 1162 affects private employers across the U.S., including non-profits. The law amends the existing California pay data reporting law SB 973.

California’s law explains the required payscale as “the salary or hourly wage range that the employer reasonably expects to pay for the position.” 

The goal of the California law is to reduce gender and racial pay gaps.

Minimum wage increase: California’s minimum wage will increase by 50 cents to $15.50 on Jan. 1. The state codified automatic annual minimum wage increases tied to inflation (but capped at 3.5%) in 2016.

Previously, the State of California employed a two-tiered minimum wage system, requiring employers with 25 or more employees to pay a higher minimum wage than employers with fewer than 25 employees.  Beginning on Jan. 1,  all employers, regardless of size, must provide their employees a minimum wage of not less than $15.50 per hour.

California law provides that overtime-exempt employees must receive a salary that is not less than two times the state minimum wage.  In light of the new increase to the state minimum wage, effective Jan. 1, the minimum annual salary for overtime-exempt employees will also increase to $64,480.

Family leave:  AB 1041 expands the California Family Rights Act and California’s paid sick leave law (the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014)  to allow covered employees to take leave to care for a “designated person.” Currently, under the CFRA, eligible employees may take job-protected leave to care for their child, parent, parent-in-law, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, spouse, or registered domestic partner.

The bill defines designated person as “any individual related by blood or whose association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.”

The “designated person” may be identified by the employee at the time they request the leave. It does not have to be designated in advance. However, employers may limit an employee to one designated person per 12-month period.

Bereavement leave: AB 1949 amends the California Family Rights Act to add a new bereavement leave requirement. Employers with five or more employees will now be required to provide employees employed for at least 30 days with up to five days of bereavement leave upon the death of a family member. The leave must be used within three months of the date of death and does not need to be taken on consecutive days. Employers may require that the employee submit documentation of the death of the family member within 30 days of the first day of the leave.

Cannabis employment discrimination: AB 2188 will make it unlawful under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act for an employer to discriminate against a person in hiring, termination, or any term or condition of employment, or otherwise penalize a person, based on:

  • The person’s use of cannabis off the job and away from the workplace; or
  • An employer-required drug screening test that has found the person to have nonpsychoactive cannabis metabolites.

AB 2188 does not apply to employees in the “building and construction trades.” Nor does it apply to employees in positions requiring federal government background investigations or security clearances through the United States Department of Defense.

COVID-10 employee notice requirements: Currently, within one day of learning about a positive COVID case in the workplace, employers are required to provide written notice of potential exposure to all employees who were on the premises at the same worksite as the COVID case. AB 2693 extends the notice requirement to Jan. 1, 2024, and provides that an employer may now satisfy the notice requirement by prominently posting a notice that includes the dates on which an employee with a confirmed case of COVID was on the premises within the infectious period, and the location of the exposure. The notice must remain posted for 15 days in a location where workplace rules and regulations are usually posted, as well as on an employee portal (if applicable).

Employers must also keep a log of all the dates the notice was posted at each of its worksites and allow the Labor Commissioner to access these records.

Street vendors: SB 972 updates regulations making it easer to obtain a street vendor to obtain a license. Updates include lowering the cost of permit fees, code-compliant vending carts and giving vendors access to kitchen infrastructure to support department-approved food preparation and storage.

Farmworker union rights: AB 2183 creates new ways for farmworkers to vote in a union election, including options for mail-in ballots, and authorization cards submitted to the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board, in addition to the existing in-person voting process.

This follows the Governor, United Farm Workers (UFW), and the California Labor Federation having agreed in a letter on clarifying language to be passed during next year’s legislative session to address Governor Newsom’s concerns around implementation and voting integrity.

Fast Food Labor council: AB 257 authorizes the creation of a council charged with establishing minimum standards on working conditions, hours and wages for fast-food workers statewide.

Under the Fast Food Accountability and Standards Recovery Act, members of the 10-member Fast Food Council at the Department of Industrial Relations would include representatives from state agencies, employers and worker representatives “to ensure an all-inclusive approach” intended to “resolve long-standing issues in the fast-food restaurant sector,” according to a press release from Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), who sponsored the bill and is a former fast-food franchisee.

However, there is a campaign headed by fast food companies to get a measure in front of voters to stop the council from being created.

The campaign announced earlier this month that it turned in more than 1 million signatures to the Secretary of State’s office as part of the referendum process. If 623,212 of those signatures are found to be valid, the measure will likely be able to put the measure on hold until the November 2024 general election.



Feather Alert: AB 1314 creates a system similar to Amber Alert but for indigenous people who have gone missing “under unexplained or suspicious circumstances.” The California Highway Patrol would activate the alert at the request of local law enforcement, and it would work much like an Amber Alert.

“I am gratified that the governor approved this bill to help stop the violence afflicting California’s Native American communities. The Feather Alert will aid law enforcement and families in getting the word out quickly when a Native individual is missing or endangered by alerting the public in a broad and effective manner. Creating an alert or advisory system was a top recommendation from tribal leaders in May to highlight this issue,” said Assemblymember James C. Ramos (D-Highland).

Ramos also noted that California, the state with the greatest population of Native Americans in the nation, is also among the states with the highest rates of reported cases of missing and murdered Indigenous people.

Freedom to Walk Act: AB 2147 prevents police from issuing jaywalking tickets unless the street crossing is truly dangerous. The act essentially allows Californians to jaywalk when someone reasonably careful would deem it safe to do so. 

OmniBike Bill: AB 1909 makes four changes to California’s vehicle code when it comes to bicyclists. Previously, California law required vehicles to maintain 3 feet distance when passing bicycles headed in the same direction but a new law will now require vehicles to move into another lane “with due regard for safety and traffic conditions, if practicable and not prohibited by law.”

The bill stops cities and counties from enforcing bicycle license laws.

The OmniBike Bill requires that e-bikes get access to bikeways while still allowing the Department of Parks and Recreation to prohibit them on some trails and local authorities to ban them from equestrian, hiking, and recreational trails.

The bill allows bikes to cross streets on pedestrian walk signals, rather than only  a green traffic light.

New state holidays: Newsom signed several new state holidays into law in September including Genocide Remembrance Day (April 24), Juneteenth (June 19) Lunar New Year (on the second or third new moon following the winter solstice) and Native American Day (fourth Friday of September).