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California’s 2023 Employment Laws: The FAST Act

We continue with perhaps the most visible of the new labor laws: The FAST Act. AB 257 sought to create a new agency, the “Fast Food Council,” to regulate the fast food industry with considerable power to set the minimum wage and working conditions. Although passed into law last year, its status is in doubt as it will be subject to a referendum in the 2024 election, and so it is not currently in effect.

If the referendum ends with the text of AB 257 being enacted then the Fast Food Council would have regulatory power over fast food restaurants until January 1, 2029.[1] These powers are broad but include a limit to proposals embodied in petitions signed by 10,000 or more fast-food restaurant employees. Through such a petition, the Council may increase the minimum wage from $15.50 up to $22.00, but the ability to jump the minimum wage up to $22.00 an hour will terminate at the end of 2023. After 2023, the minimum wage can only be increased up to 3.5% annually (or the rate change for the applicable price index published by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, whichever is lesser). The Fast Food Council may also set maximum work hours and standard labor conditions. However, the Fast Food Council will not have the power to promulgate standards under Cal/OSHA’s jurisdiction. Furthermore, the Fast Food Council cannot create “new paid time off benefits” except for “rest periods.” The law is silent as to health insurance and other benefits. The law is also silent about whether the minimum wage would be uniform across the state or a city/county-specific minimum wage schedule.

If established the Fast Food Council will consist of 10 members. Of these, 1 must be from the Department of Industrial Relations, 1 must be from the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, 2 must be representatives of fast food restaurant franchisors, 2 must be representatives of fast food restaurant franchisees, 2 must be representatives of fast food restaurant employees, and 2 must be representatives of advocates for fast food restaurant employees. The Speaker of the Assembly and the Senate Rules Committee would each appoint one representative of an advocate for fast food restaurant employees, with the governor appointing those who hold the other 8. The member’s term is for 4 years and may be removed for any reason at the appointing power’s pleasure. Counties and cities with more than 200,000 residents may form Local Fast Food Councils empowered to conduct public hearings and issue petitions to the Fast Food Council.

The jurisdiction of the Fast Food Council would be limited to fast food restaurants as defined in the statute. A “fast food restaurant” must be all of the following:

  • A Californian establishment.
  • Part of a fast food chain (defined as 100 or more fast food restaurants with a common brand).
  • Have the primary business purpose of providing food or beverages that are all of the following:
    • Prepared in advance for immediate consumption either on or off the premises
    • Possess negligible table service.
    • Customers order and pay for items before eating.
    • The items are prepared in advance.

If you have questions or concerns about how these news reports may affect you or your business, please contact The Burton Law Firm at: 916-822-8700 or email for a consultation.

[1] Labor Code § 1471(m).