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New California Employment Laws for 2021

Below is a list of new employment laws that are set to go into effect in 2021.

Wage and Hour Laws

  • Minimum Wage - The minimum wage will increase by a dollar on January 1, 2021. The minimum wage for employers with 25 employees or less will be $12.00 per hour. The minimum wage for employers with 26 employees or more will be $13.00 per hour.

  • New AB 5 Exemptions (AB 2257) - A new law was implemented in 2020 which made it more difficult for employers to classify their workers as independent contractors. Assembly Bill 2257 substantially revises AB 5 and adds on new exemptions to the "ABC Test," including providing exemptions for business-to-business contracts, referral agencies, music industry and performers, and professional services.

  • Limited On-Call Rest Break Exemption for Unionized Security Officers (AB 1512) - This new law allows unionized security officers to remain on-call during their rest breaks without legal ramifications to the employer.

Discrimination, Harassment & Retaliation

  • Requirement to Submit Pay Data Report to the DFEH (SB 973) - Private employers with 100 or more employees must submit a pay data report to the Department of Fair Employment and Housing by March 31, 2021, and every year thereafter. The report must include the number of employees by race, ethnicity, and sex in a variety of job categories, including executive or senior-level officials and managers, professionals, laborers and helpers, and service workers.

  • No Rehire Provisions (AB 2143) - Employers are currently prohibited from including a provision in their settlement agreements restricting an aggrieved person from working for the employer. This new law slightly modifies the existing law by requiring that the aggrieved person has filed the claim in good faith in order for the prohibition to apply.

Leaves of Absence

  • Expansion of California's Family Rights Act (SB 1383) - Under existing law, employers with 50 or more employees must provide 12 workweeks of unpaid leave for family care and medical leave. The New Parent Leave Act, which was enacted a few years ago, required employers with 20 or more employees to provide 12 workweeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period to bond with a new child.

This new expansion of the CFRA does the following: (1) Applies the CFRA to employers with as few as five employees; (2) provides for baby bonding leave, repealing the New Parent Leave Act; (3) expands the definition of "family members" to include domestic partners, grandparents, grandchildren, adult children, and siblings.

Since the new CFRA expansion law allows employees to take leave for reasons not covered under the federal Family Medical Leave Act, it is possible that employees may be entitled to up to 24 workweeks of unpaid leave for those leaves that do not run concurrently with the FMLA.

  • Employees Given Sole Discretion to Use Kin Care Leave (AB 2017) - Employees currently may use their accrued sick leave to tend to the illness of a family member. Under the new law, employees will have the power to use their sick leave at "their sole discretion."

  • Expanded Protections for Victims of Crime or Abuse (AB 2992) - This law expands current protections for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking to include protections for victims of crime or abuse. In practice, this prohibits employers from discharging, discriminating or retaliating against an employee who is a victim of a crime or abuse from taking time off work to obtain relief to help ensure the health, safety, or welfare of the victim or the victim's child.

COVID-19 Related Laws

  • Worker's Compensation (SB 1159) - This law creates a rebuttable presumption that an employee contracted COVID-19 at work if the employee tests positive or is diagnosed with COVID-19 within 14 days after working at the employer's place of employment.

  • Expansion of Cal/OSHA Laws (AB 685) - This law expands Cal/OSHA's authority by allowing them to shut down worksites that expose employees to COVID-19 imminent hazards. It also creates new notice and reporting requirements to employees and subcontractors that must be met within one business day of potential COVID-19 exposure.