CalChamber-Led Opposition Stops Bill Banning Employer Speech

Job Killer IconEffective opposition led by the California Chamber of Commerce has stopped SB 399, a job killer bill that stifles employer speech, from advancing this year.

CalChamber efforts also have helped stall several other job killer bills that will increase business costs and expose employers to costly litigation. These bills have been placed on the suspense file in the Assembly or Senate Appropriations committees and will need to pass these fiscal committees by September 1 to continue moving this year.


SB 399 (Wahab; D-Hayward) is now a two-year bill — meaning that legislators may bring it up for consideration again next year.

SB 399 chills employer speech regarding religious and political matters, including unionization. The bill is likely unconstitutional under the First Amendment and preempted by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

SB 399 effectively prohibits discussions regarding political matters in the workplace, specifically preventing employers from requiring employees to attend “an employer-sponsored meeting” or “participate in, receive, or listen to any communications with the employer” where the purpose is to communicate the employer’s opinion “about” political matters.

In an opposition letter, the CalChamber pointed out that the intent of SB 399 is to effectively chill any communications by the employer or in the workplace about political matters.

Because SB 399 creates a new section of the Labor Code, any good faith error in interpreting the bill or its exceptions creates liability under the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA), which carries significant penalties of $100 to $200 per employee per pay period.

Moreover, California and federal law already protect against employer coercion related to political matters. For example, the NLRA prohibits employers from making any threats to employees, interfering with or restraining exercise of their rights, coercing employees, or promising benefits to employees for voting a certain way in a union election, the CalChamber explained.


Among the job killer bills currently stalled are the following:

SB 616 (Gonzalez; D-Long Beach): Imposes new costs and leave requirements on employers of all sizes, by more than doubling existing sick leave mandate, which is in addition to all other enacted leave mandates that small employers throughout the state are already struggling with to implement and comply. Job Killer. In Assembly Appropriations Suspense File.

SB 627 (Smallwood-Cuevas; D-Los Angeles) Imposes an onerous and stringent process to hire employees based on seniority alone for nearly every industry, including hospitals, retail, restaurants, and movie theaters, which will delay hiring and eliminates contracts for at-will employment. Job Killer. In Assembly Appropriations Suspense File.

AB 524 (Wicks; D-Oakland): Exposes employers to costly litigation under the Fair Employment and Housing Act by asserting that any adverse employment action was in relation to the employee’s family caregiver status, which is broadly defined to include any employee who contributes to the care of any person of their choosing, and creates a de facto accommodation requirement that will burden small businesses. Job Killer. In Senate Appropriations Suspense File.