California HR Law Updates for 2021 

What Employers Need to Know 

Here is a brief overview of key legislation for 2021. It is recommended that employers update their company handbooks and make sure they have the latest labor law poster displayed. For more detailed information on these legislative updates, follow the links that have been provided or call Sequoia Personnel Services at (707) 4459641 for more information on how these regulations may impact your business.  


COVID-19 Exposures in the Workplace   

AB 685 requires that employers provide written notice to all employees when a COVID-19 exposure has occurred in the workplace—even if they were in a different department or were not onsite at the time. This notice cannot denote the name of the potentially exposed employee, or any of their personal and/or health details per the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act [HIPPA] privacy laws. This notice must be made within one business day of the potential exposure. The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) can order a shutdown if it deems that the worksite presents an imminent hazard to others’ safety. You can visit their website for more details on this topic.  

 Minimum-Wage Increases for Hourly and Salary Workers  

  • Effective January 1st, 2021 employers with 26 employees or more must pay workers a minimum wage of $14.00 per hour.  
  • Employers with 25 employees or less must pay workers a minimum wage of $13.00 per hour.  
  • Businesses must be aware that many cities set their own hourly rates, and those local rates may also be increasing in the new year 
  • The minimum salary for exempt employees will also be raised to $58,240 at businesses with 26 or more employees, and $54,080 at those with 25 or less employees.  
  • For California employees to be classified under the executive, administrative, and professional exemptions, they must be paid at least double the minimum wage and fulfill certain responsibilities.  


Pay Data Reporting   

Beginning in 2021, employers with 100 employees or more will need to provide wage information to the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) by March 31st of each year, in accordance with SB 973. The DFEH will use the wage information to enforce equal-pay and anti-discrimination laws. Employers must use employees’ W-2s to issue a detailed report on pay, broken down by race, ethnicity, and gender for various job categories, including administrative support workers, midlevel managers, and laborers. The state has not yet provided templates to help businesses present this information, but does offer guidance 


Expanded Family and Medical Leave   

Employers with at least five employees must provide up to 12 workweeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for workers to bond with a baby, take medical leave, or care for relatives—including a child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, spouse, or domestic partner in accordance with SB 1383. This ruling expands the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), which previously granted this leave only to employees at businesses with a minimum of 50 employees. 


Time Off   

AB 2017: California employees, at their own discretion, may use at least half of their accrued sick leave to care for relatives, including a child, parent, spouse, registered domestic partner, grandparent, grandchild, or sibling.   

AB 2992: broadens protections for crime victims and prohibits employers from discriminating against employees who are victims of crime or abuse for taking time off from work, scheduled or unscheduled, to seek related relief, such as medical attention for injuries, mental health services, or safety planning. This bill expands the provision to prohibit an employer from discharging, or discriminating or retaliating against, an employee who is a victim of crime or abuse for taking time off from work to obtain or attempt to obtain relief. 


Corporate Board Diversity 

By the end of 2021, SB 826 requires that all boards of California-based public companies with six or more directors have at least three female directors. The law requires five-member boards to have at least two female directors, and there must be at least one female director on boards with fewer than five directors.   

By the end of the current calendar year, AB 979 also mandates that boards include at least one director from an underrepresented community, that is defined as, “an individual who self-identifies as Black, African American, Hispanic, Latino, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, Native Hawaiian, or Alaska Native, or who self-identifies as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender,” per the Bill. Noncompliant companies can face fines of at least $100,000.