New Employment Laws
for a New Year

New employment laws swept the Golden State beginning on New Year’s Day 2021, ranging from minimum wage requirements to COVID-19 workplace policies, leaves of absence, worker classification issues, and more.

If you’re an employer and you’re in the Granite Bay area of California, or in the surrounding communities of Rosehill, Folsom, Rocklin, and Auburn, contact me at Katz Business Law for guidance and clarity on all your concerns. I have three decades of experience in understanding, applying, and complying with employment laws.

Minimum Wage Requirements

Continuing on its march toward a $15/hour minimum wage rate, California raised its standard on January 1, 2021, to $13/hour for employers with 25 or fewer employees and to $14/hour for those above that threshold.

By 2023, the rate is slated to be $15/hour for companies of 25-plus employees, and by 2024 for the rest. Note also that cities and counties are able to establish their own higher rates. You must observe the higher rate if your business is located in one of those cities or counties.

COVID-19 Measures

SS 1159 requires employers to report employee cases of COVID-19 immediately to their workers’ compensation insurance carriers. The bill expires, unless renewed, on December 31, 2023. This law creates a rebuttable presumption of an industrial injury or illness for workers’ compensation claims if the employees are healthcare workers or exposed to an outbreak at work by other means.

AB 685 imposes strict reporting requirements on employers when they learn of potential COVID-19 exposure risks at their workplace. It mandates various notices be given to different groups of employees and that local health authorities be notified if employers suspect an outbreak of the virus in their workplace.

AB 2537 requires employers, both public and private, to provide workers in a hospital with personal protective equipment (PPE) as necessary, and to maintain a three-month stockpile. The bill also mandates employers to provide inventory information to Cal/OSHA upon request. SB 275 will require certain employers to maintain specified PPE stockpiles beginning on January 1, 2023.

Leaves of Absence

SB 1383 expands the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) by reducing the threshold of eligibility from employers with 50 or more employees down to employers with five or more employees. The law also expands the definition of family member to include grandparents, grandchildren, siblings, adult children, and parents-in-law. 

This expanded family member definition could allow employees to take 12 weeks of CFRA leave to care for a grandchild, and then to take another 12 weeks of Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave to care for themselves, all in the same 12-month period. The law also eliminates the restriction against both parents who work for the same employer from taking 12 weeks each to care for a newborn.

Expansion of Paid Family Leave

SB 1123, passed in 2018, expanded the Paid Family Leave (PFL) program to include time off for employees to attend to a “qualifying exigency” related to a spouse, registered domestic partner, parent, or child who is on active duty in the military. The law became effective on January 31. In addition, AB 2399, also taking effect in 2021, expanded coverage to include family members of active-duty personnel.

Leave Entitlement for Crime Victims

AB 2992 expands the definition of a crime victim eligible for protected leave under California Labor Code Section 230.2. The law now includes:

  • A victim of stalking, domestic violence, or sexual assault
  • A victim of a crime that caused physical injury or that caused mental injury and a threat of physical injury
  • A person whose immediate family member is deceased as the direct result of a crime
  • A crime or public offense “that would constitute a misdemeanor or a felony if the crime had been committed in California by a competent adult … whether any person is arrested for, prosecuted for, or convicted of, committing the crime.”

Kin Care/Sick Leave

Under Labor Code Section 233, employees are allowed to use half of their accumulated sick leave to care for spouses and children, a provision that came to be known as “Kin Care.” Due to some confusion arising from the Healthy Workplaces Healthy Families Act of 2014, some employers considered Kin Care to include time off for personal illness. AB 2017 now allows employees to designate whether they are taking sick time for themselves or for Kin Care to end the confusion and potential misapplication of time off.

Worker Classification

AB 2257 makes some modifications to the previously enacted worker classification bill known as AB 5, which established a three-part — or ABC — test to determine whether a worker is an employee or independent contractor. It adds about two dozen new categories of exemptions from the ABC test, including insurance underwriters, many in the writing, arts, and sound recording industries, real estate appraisers, and more.

Pay Data

SB 973 requires employers with 100-plus employees who are required to submit the federal Employer Information Report (EEO-1) annually also to submit a pay data report to the state’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). This report, due by March 31 of each year, must include information about employees’ race, ethnicity, and gender in various job categories. In essence, this means submitting the same data submitted annually to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to the DFEH.

No Hire Provision

Under existing law, an employer reaching a settlement with an employee over a dispute cannot include a “no hire” provision barring that employee from working for the same employer or related business anytime in the future. The ban is waived if the employee has engaged in sexual harassment or sexual assault. AB 2143 now requires employers wishing to use this exception to have documented the act of sexual harassment or assault prior to the employee’s filing a claim.

Corporate Board Composition

In 2018, California enacted a measure to require corporate boards of directors to include at least one female director by December 31, 2021. AB 979 now requires those boards to include, proportionate to their number of board members, individuals from “underrepresented communities,” including ethnic minorities and those who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender by the end of 2022. This equates to two directors for smaller boards and to three for boards of nine or more.

Employment Law Attorney
Serving Granite Bay, California

I keep a constant watch on changes in business and corporation law in California. Legal compliance is a large part of what I do. If you have questions about any new laws and provisions affecting your business as we move forward in 2021, I am here to answer your questions and guide you to the proper compliance.

Contact me at Katz Business Law if you’re in or around the Granite Bay area. You deserve legal counsel you can depend upon.


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