California Serves Up Another Headache for the Restaurant Industry

Date   Oct 23, 2023

Executive Summary: Beginning January 1, 2024, restaurant employers in California will be required to pay their workers for all costs associated with obtaining a food handler card, including treating the time spent obtaining the certification as hours worked. The new law will also require employers to relieve their employees of all duties during the time needed to complete training and will prohibit employers from requiring applicants to have an existing food handler card as a condition of employment.

As if the amendments raising the minimum wage for the fast food industry were not enough, the Golden State has passed another law governing the restaurant industry.

Previously, the state’s health and safety code required most restaurant workers to obtain a food handler card within 30 days of their hire date, with renewal every three years. At the same time, prior law did not require employers to pay for the costs of such certification. Under the terms of SB 476, expected to go into effect on January 1, 2024, employers will be required to pay for costs associated with obtaining a food handler card. In addition to that, the time needed for employees to obtain the card (or for renewal) must be counted as hours worked, and employers must relieve their employees from all other work duties while they are in the process of completing their training. As an increased burden on employers, employers are barred from conditioning employment on applicants having an existing food handler card.

Based on the above provisions, the new law is expected to require restaurant employers to not only review their food handler policies, but also their policies concerning timekeeping, job advertisements, and new hire training/orientation procedures.

The Bottom Line

We encourage restaurant employers in California to contact legal counsel and have their employment policies and practices reviewed to ensure compliance with the new laws impacting restaurants.

If you have any questions regarding this Alert or other labor or employment issues affecting California employers, please contact the author, David, partner in our Los Angeles office. Of course, you can also contact the FordHarrison attorney with whom you usually work.