Changes to California Employment Laws in 2021

In light of the Coronavirus pandemic and the economic challenges of 2020, many new employment laws are going into effect in California this new year. While some are intended to improve public safety, many of these new measures are geared toward protecting the health and well-being of employees in businesses across the state. Here are a few key changes to California employment law starting January 1st, 2021 that workers and employers should be aware of.

New Compliance Standards under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA)

Before 2021, only private companies of 50 employees or more were required to comply with the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) but an expansion to the CFRA states that all businesses of at least 5 individuals must provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to their employees for events like caring for a baby or helping a family member struggling with illness. Additional provisions restrict an employer’s ability to refuse the rehire of an employee, especially if that refusal would result in serious financial hardship for the worker. Exceptions are made for the “no rehire” provision if employees are found to have participated in criminal activity or sexual harassment in the workplace.

Covid-19 Related Changes

Starting this year, employers must immediately notify their employees if they have been potentially exposed to Covid-19. They must then report the outbreak within 48 hours to the local Department of Health. If businesses are found to be in non-compliance with state guidelines, OSHA can declare a worksite in California to be an “imminent hazard”, effectively shutting down operations. A notice will be posted on the business and a citation will be issued to the business owner.

To help frontline workers during the pandemic, Senate Bill 1159 has also been extended to support worker’s compensation for first responders who are exposed to the virus while on the job. Additionally, exemptions from independent contractor status have been expanded in California. New eligible exemptions include musicians, producers, photographers, and copyeditors, among others.

Minimum Wage Increase

Minimum wage workers in California employed at businesses with 25 employees or less will make a dollar more per hour in 2021 making minimum wage $13 per hour, up from $12 last year. Businesses with a staff of over 25 people will have to pay at least $14 per hour for minimum wage.

Those who drive for companies like Lyft or Uber will also be receiving some benefits since Proposition 22 passed in California last year, including easier access to affordable healthcare and mileage reimbursement. Lyft or Uber drivers can expect to earn up to 120% of the state-mandated minimum wage during “engaged time”. Drivers are not compensated unless they are on the way to pick up a passenger or are in the process of driving one to their destination.

Davtyan Law Firm has considerable experience in all aspects of California employment law. Our legal team is dedicated to protecting the rights of California workers. If you believe you have been unlawfully mistreated by your employer in regards to wages, discrimination, or lack of adherence to Covid-19 protocols, contact our office today at (818) 275-5799.

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