New Healthcare and Employment Laws Physicians Need to Know

Earlier this fall the California legislative session concluded with 997 new bills enacted into law. Below is a summary of those bills that may be of immediate interest to physicians in their roles as healthcare providers and employers. 

New Labor and Employment Laws

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On January 1, 2023, the minimum wage in California is increased to $15.50 per hour, for all employers— regardless of the number of workers employed by an employer. Also, many cities and local governments in California have enacted minimum wage ordinances exceeding the state minimum wage.

SB 1126, authored by Senator Dave Cortese (D-San Jose), expands the definition of “eligible employer” to include any such person or entity that has at least one eligible employee and that satisfies the requirements to establish or participate in a payroll deposit retirement savings arrangement, e.g., a 401(k) plan.  Excluded from the definition of “eligible employer” are sole proprietorships, self-employed individuals, or other business entities that do not employ any individuals other than the owners of the business.

This bill further requires eligible employers with five or more employees that do not offer a retirement savings program, to have a payroll deposit savings arrangement to allow employee participation in the program within 36 months after the CalSavers Board opens the program for enrollment. By December 31, 2025, eligible employers with one or more eligible employees that do not provide a retirement savings program, are required to have a payroll deposit savings arrangement to allow employee participation in the program.

SB 1162, authored by Senator Monique Limon (D-Santa Barbara), requires employers with 15 or more employees to disclose pay scales for a position in any job posting and requires employers to maintain records of job titles and wage rate history for each employee for the duration of employment plus three years. It also sets new pay data reporting requirements based on protected characteristics, changes the date for submitting pay data reports, and establishes significant civil penalties for non-compliance. A more detailed overview can be seen here: https://www.faegredrinker.com/en/insights/publications/2022/9/california-legislature-passes-pay-transparency-law

AB 1041 authored by Assemblyperson Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland), expands the class of people for whom an employee may take leave to care for under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) to include a “designated person.” Under the CFRA, an employer with five or more employees must provide eligible employees who meet specified requirements to
take up to a total of 12 workweeks in any 12-month period for family care and medical leave as defined
by the CFRA.

This bill defines “designated person” to mean any individual related by blood or whose association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship. Further, this bill provides that the employee may identify the designated person at the time the employee requests Leave and that the employer may limit the employee to one designated person per 12-month period.

This bill also expands the definition of family member under the California (CA) Paid Sick Leave Law to include a “designated person.” Like the provisions of the CFRA discussed above, for purposes of the CA Paid Sick Leave Law, the employee may identify the designated person at the time the employee requests paid sick days and the employer may limit an employee to one designated person per 12-month period for paid sick days.

AB 1949, authored by Assemblyperson Carlos Villapudua (D-Stockton), amends the California Family Rights Act CFRA and provides that eligible employees who have been employed for at least 30 days may take up to 5 days of unpaid leave (subject to an employee’s ability to use available paid time off) related to the death of a family member. Family member means a spouse or a child, parent, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, domestic partner or
parent-in-law.

Under this bill, bereavement leave need not be taken in consecutive days, but the bereavement leave must be completed within three months of the date of death of the family member.

To the extent an employer has an existing bereavement policy, the bereavement leave must be taken pursuant to the employer’s existing bereavement leave policy. If the employer does not have an existing bereavement leave policy, the bereavement leave may be unpaid; but the employee may use vacation, personal leave, accrued and available sick leave or compensatory time off that is otherwise available to the employee.

If the employer’s existing leave policy provides for less than five days of paid bereavement leave, the employee is entitled to no less than a total of five days of bereavement leave, consisting of the number of days of paid leave under the employer’s existing policy, and the remainder of days of leave may be unpaid; but the employee may use vacation, personal leave, accrued and available sick leave, or compensatory time off that is otherwise available to the employee.

New Healthcare-Related Laws

SB 1419, authored by Senator Josh Becker (D-Santa Clara), allows patients to receive the results of their "tests" prior to a review by a healthcare professional. The term "tests" has been expanded to include not only clinical laboratory tests, but also imaging scans (e.g., x-rays, MRIs and ultrasounds). This new law requires  a health plan and health insurer, commencing January 1, 2024, in order to facilitate patient and provider access to health information, to establish and maintain the application programming interfaces (APIs) for access to patient, provider and payer-to-payer.

SB 1473, authored by Senator Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), requires health plans and insurers to cover therapeutics approved or granted emergency use authorization by the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA)—to treat COVID-19 or any other disease that the Governor has declared a public health emergency—regardless of the provider’s network status. The bill also prohibits cost sharing and utilization management for such therapeutics, similar to existing rules related to testing and vaccines. SB 1473 also extends the coverage requirements for testing, vaccines, and therapeutics for six months after the end of a public health emergency.

AB 1636, authored by Assemblyperson Akilah Weber, M.D. (D-San Diego), causes physicians convicted of sexual assault with a patient to lose their license with no ability for it to be reinstated. Currently, a physician can petition the medical board for reinstatement three years after having their license revoked or surrendered for unprofessional conduct.

This bill removes the discretion from a medical board to give or reinstate a physician or surgeon who lost their license due to sexual misconduct with a patient. This bill would also deny a physician’s and surgeon’s certificate to an applicant who has been or is required to register as a sex offender.

AB 2098, authored by Assemblyperson Evan Low (D-San Jose), designates the dissemination or promotion of misinformation or disinformation related to COVID-19 by a physician or surgeon as unprofessional conduct, allowing the Medical Board to take action against such physician or surgeon. This bill is intended to target three types of false or misleading information relating ONLY to the COVID-19 pandemic.

First, the language refers to nonfactual information regarding the nature and risks of the virus—for example, misleadingly comparing COVID-19 to less serious conditions or inaccurately characterizing the deadliness of the disease.

Second, the bill seeks to address false statements regarding its prevention and treatment—this would presumably include treatments and therapies that have no proven effectiveness against the virus.

The third category is for misinformation or disinformation regarding the development, safety, and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines.   

Gabriela Villanueva is CAP’s Government and External Affairs Analyst. Questions or comments related to this article should be directed to GVillanueva@CAPphysicians.com.