New Employer Regulations for 2021

Below is a summary of new developments and requirements for employers for 2021:


Cal-OSHA Emergency Regulations

On November 30,2020, Cal/OSHA established emergency regulations for employers that include having a detailed written COVID-19 Prevention Plan. This is a stand-alone document that must include five compliance categories: COVID-19 Prevention Program, Outbreaks, Major Outbreaks, Employer-Provided Housing, and Employer-Provided Transportation. In addition to following the state and federal guidelines, it is important you comply with any local ordinance.


Workplace Safety

AB 685 establishes stringent COVID-19 recording and reporting requirements when employers receive “notice of a potential exposure to COVID-19” at the workplace. Among other things, AB 685 requires employers to provide a number of notices to different groups of employees within one business day after receiving notice of a potential COVID-19 exposure.

AB 685 also requires employers to notify their local public health agency within 48 hours of a COVID-19 “outbreak,” as defined by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). At the time of publication, the CDPH defined an outbreak in most instances as three lab-confirmed cases within two weeks, though the department could revise this definition. Update your COVID-19 Prevention Plan to include how you will handle these additional requirements.


Paid Sick Leave

AB 1867also took effect immediately upon being signed on September 9, 2020. This bill expands supplemental paid sick leave for COVID-19-related reasons for certain employers not already covered by the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) — specifically, employers with 500 or more employees nationwide, as well as health care providers and first responders that are excluded from FFCRA.

Employees who work for covered employers can take COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave if the worker is:

  • Subject to a federal, state or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19;
  • Advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine or self-isolate due to concerns related to COVID-19; or
  • Prohibited from working by the employer due to health concerns related to the potential transmission of COVID-19.


The FFCRA is set to expire 12/31/20.


Expansion California Family Rights Act – SB1383

SB1383 is one of the most significant new laws for next year, substantially expanding the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) on January 1, 2021. Currently, CFRA applies to employers with 50 or more employees, this law expands CFRA to include employers with 5 or more employees. Small employers will now have to offer 12 weeks of unpaid leave for qualified employees for their own illness, caring for an ill family member, pregnancy disability or baby bonding. If you have not been covered by the CFRA in the past it is important that you prepare a policy demonstrating your business’ compliance. For employers that have more that 50 employees and have already been under the CFRA you must update your policy to eliminate geographical requirements for eligibility and family members defined for taking the leave.


Create or update your CFRA policy and provide training to your Managers about how the policy works and who is eligible.


Kin Care Clarification – AB 2017

The current Kin Care law allows an employee to use up to half of their accrued sick leave to care for a family member. AB2017 allows the employee to designate or not use sick leave for kin care.


Prohibited Discrimination or Retaliation against Victims or Crime or Abuse – AB 2992

AB2992 expands the prohibition on discrimination and retaliation against employees who are victims of crime or abuse when they take time off for court proceedings or to seek medical attention or related relief for domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking or other crime that causes injury.


Discrimination, Harassment and Retaliation Protections

AB 1947 extends the time an individual can file a complaint of discrimination or retaliation with the DLSE, also known as the Labor Commissioner. Under current law, workers alleging they were discriminated or retaliated against in violation of any law enforced by the Labor Commissioner have six months to file a complaint with the Labor Commissioner; beginning January 1, 2021, AB 1947 extends that time to one year.


Minimum Wage

California’s statewide minimum wage continues to increase each year, as scheduled, until all employers reach $15/hour in 2023. Beginning January 1, 2021, employers with 26 or more employees will need to pay their employees no less than $14/hour, and employers with 25 or fewer employees will need to pay their employees no less than $13/hour. However, employers covered by local minimum wage ordinances are subject to higher rates than what the state requires.


It’s important that you make sure your employees are making the minimum wage on 1/1/2021 and if you local minimum wage law is more generous than the state you must comply with the local law. You also need to ensure that exempt employees are meeting the minimum monthly salary requirement of no less than two times the state minimum wage for full-time employment. It is based on the current state minimum wage, not any applicable local minimum wage.


Sexual Harassment Training Deadline

SB 1343 required a one-hour training for staff and 2-hour training for managers on Sexual

Harassment previously had a deadline for completion of this training by January 1, 2021. The Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) has a free sexual harassment online training for both staff and management. While I provide this training and am a proponent of the value of customized training, during this pandemic it may be easier to allow your staff to use this online resource.


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