New California Employment Laws Effective in 2021

A number of new California employment laws will go into effect in January 2021. Employers should keep abreast of their responsibilities, while workers should maintain an understanding of their rights. Here, our Los Angeles employment attorneys break down some of the most impactful new measures pertaining to employee leave, pay, discrimination and classification.Los Angeles employment lawyer

AB 2399 – Paid Family Leave for Active Military Duty. This bill, signed in September and effective Jan. 1, 2020, extends the definition of Paid Family Leave under the state’s Unemployment Insurance Code to include coverage for active military members and their families. Previously, the state’s Paid Family Leave Program provides wage replacement benefits for workers who need to take time off to care for a seriously ill immediate family member or to bond with a new child right after birth or adoption. Now, the law allows for a qualifying exigency related to the active duty or call to active duty of one’s spouse, domestic partner, child or parent in the U.S. Armed Forces.

AB 2479 – Rest Period Exemptions for Safety-Sensitive Positions. Effective Jan. 1, 2021, this measure allows employers to exempt certain employees in safety-sensitive posts at petroleum facilities to carry and monitor a communication device (pager, radio, etc.) to promptly respond to emergencies or to remain on employer’s premises – even during their rest periods, should a problem arise. If a rest period is interrupted to address an emergency, employer must authorize another rest period as soon after the interruption as possible. If a rest period isn’t possible, employer must pay the worker one hour of pay at the employee’s regular rate for each rest period missed.

AB 2992 – Employee Leave. Effective Jan. 1, 2021, this measure expands on existing law barring employers from firing, discriminating or retaliating against workers who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking from taking time off work to ensure their or their child’s health, safety or welfare. AB 2992 expands this protection to include those who are victims of crime (or their immediate family members) who take time off work to obtain/attempt to attain relief such as restraining orders, medical care for injuries or psychological counseling/mental health counseling.

SB 1159 – Workers’ Compensation for COVID-19 Critical Workers. This measure went into effect in September, codifying an earlier executive order by the governor. This creates a presumption that the COVID-19 illness of a worker is an occupational injury, and thus the worker is eligible for workers’ compensation benefits (if specified criteria are met). The executive order had covered all employees in California who worked at a jobsite outside their residence at the direction of their employer between mid-March to early July. This measure, signed in May, addresses employees who get sick from COVID-19 from July on, creating the presumption that the virus was work-related for workers’ comp purposes if certain conditions are met. This rebuttable presumption is also established if there is a COVID-9 outbreak at one’s workplace. The measure also requires companies with five or more employees to report certain information to their workers’ compensation carrier as soon as they know/reasonably should know a worker has tested positive for the virus and has been on the jobsite within the previous two weeks – even if they don’t think the worker got sick on-the-job. Reporting violations can result in a fine of up to $10,000.

SB 1383 – CFRA Leave Expansion. This measure expands the California Family Rights Act to require companies with as few as five workers to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to employees for reasons that are covered, which include serious health conditions of employee/family member or for baby bonding. The bill further expands to include a family member’s being called to active duty as a qualifying exigency and eliminates the previous right of employers to cap leave to 12 weeks combined for baby bonding when both parents are employed by the same company.

If in the coming year, you have questions about your rights under California’s employment laws, our skilled civil trial lawyers are available to offer answers and assistance.

Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 714-937-2020.

Additional Resources:

California Family Rights Act, August 2019

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