SB 476 Establishes New Obligations for Employers of Food Handlers

In California, employees in food facilities are required to undergo food handler training and obtain a food handler card. However, workers at certain facilities are exempt from the food handler training. A food handler card is a certificate that demonstrates an employee’s knowledge of safe food handling practices. In California, food handlers must obtain a card from an accredited training provider that meets specific training and testing requirements. Some of the things employers are taught during the training include personal hygiene, time and temperature control, cross-contamination, and allergen awareness. In the past, employees had to pay for their own food handler card training. This changed in the beginning of 2024 after Senate Bill (SB) 476 went into effect. According to this new law, California employers are required to pay for the costs associated with food handler training. Additionally, employers must pay workers for the time associated with the training and testing.

Who Must Have a Food Handler Card in California?

People working in food facilities who prepare, store, or handle food must obtain a food handler card. This includes individuals working in bars, restaurants, bakeries, mobile food facilities, and delis. Examples of employees who must get a food handler card in California include the following;

  • Chefs
  • Bartenders
  • Cooks
  • Host and hostesses that handle food
  • Food warehouse staff

To get a food handler card, an employee must pass a food handler class accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Employees must obtain a card within a month of being hired and maintain the card for their entire employment. In California, food handler cards are valid for three years from the date of issuance. An employee can move with their card to a new job if three years have not passed since the date the card was issued. 

Workers at certain facilities, including the following, are exempt from the food handler training requirement;

  • Certified farmer markets
  • Private and public school cafeterias
  • Commissaries
  • Grocery stores
  • Licensed healthcare facilities

Understanding the Changes Introduced by SB 476

First, SB 476, which went into effect at the beginning of 2024, requires California employers to cover the costs of their employees’ food handler card course. Under SB 476, food handler training should be provided at no cost to employees. Second, employers are required to pay for the time an employee spends in training and taking the examination. Additionally, an employee should be relieved of all other work duties while taking the training course and examination.

Another crucial thing stated under SB 476 is that California employers cannot require a valid food handler card as a condition of employment for new employees. However, certain things need clarification. For instance, can employers give preference to individuals with a valid food handler card when hiring? And what if a worker takes the test multiple times but can’t achieve a passing score? Can an employer terminate such an employee? Hopefully, these questions will be answered soon.

It is vital to note that SB 476 does not change certain things, such as the card’s timing requirements and the requirements for obtaining a food handler card. To get a card, an employee must take an exam consisting of at least 40 questions and score at least 70%.    

Contact a California Employment Lawyer

Contact a California employment lawyer if you need more information on Senate Bill 476.