New Laws in 2021 - What Employers Should Know


Last year was unprecedented in many ways, but California’s legislature did not slow down. Below is a summary of the most significant changes in employment laws for 2021. The descriptions below are brief, but if you have any further questions or concerns regarding these laws, please do not hesitate to contact one of the attorneys you work with at Schwartz Semerdjian


Cal/OSHA Emergency Regulations

On November 19, 2020, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) approved a set of emergency regulations to address safety protocols for employers, prevent infections, and respond to outbreaks in the workplace. These regulations went into effect November 30th and apply to all employers with employees working outside the home.

There are 5 specific compliance categories:

1.    COVID-19 Prevention Program
2.    Outbreaks
3.    Major Outbreaks
4.    Employer-Provided Housing
5.    Employer-Provided Transportation

For more information regarding each of the compliance categories, please click here. We sent an email on December 9th about preparing a COVID-19 Prevention Plan for your workplace [click here to view the article on our website]. If you don’t have one in place yet, now is the time to get it established. Call our office to discuss next steps. 

Workers’ Compensation (SB 1159)

When an employer with five or more employees “knows or reasonably should know” that an employee tests positive for COVID-19, SB 1159 requires the employer to inform its workers’ compensation carrier and provide specified information within three business days. 

COVID Exposure Notification (AB 685)

Requires employers to provide written notice and instructions to employees who may have been exposed to COVID-19 at their worksite and enhances Cal/OSHA’s ability to enforce health and safety standards to prevent workplace exposure to and spread of COVID-19. Employers must provide the following written notices:

  • Notice to employees and employers of subcontracted employees who were at the same worksite as the infected employee and therefore may have been exposed to COVID-19. This notice must not share the infected employee’s personal information.
  • Information to all employees regarding COVID-19 related benefits to which they may be entitled under federal, state or local laws, as well as employer-provided benefits.
  • Notice to all employees regarding the disinfection and safety plan in place in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

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”). Currently, an outbreak is considered three lab-confirmed cases within two weeks. In San Diego and most other counties statewide, the county health department requires that employers notify them about any employee with COVID-19 at a worksite. To do this in San Diego County, employers can complete the form online here


Pay Data Reports (SB 973)

Requires, on or before March 31, 2021, and each year thereafter, a private employer that has 100 or more employees and who is required to file an annual Employer Information Report under federal law, to submit a pay data report to the DFEH that contains specified wage information. Requires that the report include the employer’s NAICS code.

Family Leave (SB 1383)

Extends California’s Family and Medical Rights Act to require any employer with five or more employees to grant a qualifying employee up to 12 work weeks of unpaid protected leave during any 12-month period to bond with a new child of the employee or to care for themselves or a child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, spouse, or domestic partner. 

Minimum Wage

State law: beginning January 1, 2021, employers with 26 or more employees will need to pay their employees no less than $14 per hour, and employers with 25 or fewer employees will need to pay their employees no less than $13 per hour.

San Diego (city): $14 per hour.

Employee Crime Victims (AB 2992)

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

Don’t forget SB 778

California law effective January 1, 2021, requires all employers of 5 or more employees to provide 1 hour of sexual harassment and abusive conduct prevention training to nonsupervisory employees and 2 hours of sexual harassment and abusive conduct prevention training to supervisors and managers once every two years. Cost-free training and more information is available online here.