Business people shaking hands at a desk


Robinson Bradford LLP Feb. 25, 2021

California is usually at the forefront of employment and labor law changes, and 2021 is another banner year for the Golden State. Changes include minimum wage increases, COVID-19 workplace reporting requirements, time off for victims of crimes, leaves of absence, worker classifications, and more.

If you have a business in Temecula, Costa Mesa, or Stockton, including the nearby communities, our team at Robinson Bradford LLP stands ready to answer all your questions about workplace changes in 2021 and to help you implement any new mandated policies. Call us with your concerns.

2021’s New California Employment Laws

Here is a compendium of New Year, New Laws in California:


Effective January 1, 2021, the statewide minimum wage is $13 per hour for businesses with 25 or fewer employees and $14 per hour for those with 26 or more employees. Both benchmarks will rise $1 in 2022, and the $15-per-hour standard will be completed in 2023 when employers with 25 or fewer employees must pay $15 hourly. Where municipalities and counties have enacted higher minimum wages, those rates must be observed.


Three bills affect employers during the pandemic. SB 1159, expiring on December 31, 2023, requires employers to immediately report employees contracting COVID-19 to their workers’ compensation insurance carriers to confirm their eligibility. AB 685 imposes strict reporting requirements on employers if a workplace outbreak occurs. AB 2537 requires employers to provide hospital workers with COVID-19 personal protective equipment (PPE) and maintain a three-month PPE stockpile.


SB 1383 reduces the employee threshold from 50 to 5 to qualify for the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), which provides 12 weeks of leave to care for a family member. The bill also expands the definition of “family member” to include grandparents, grandchildren, siblings, adult children, and parents-in-law. It also eliminates the provision in the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) that precluded parents working for the same company from both taking 12 weeks off to care for a newborn child.


SB 1123 (passed in 2018 but taking effect this year) expands the Paid Family Leave (PFL) program to include time off for employees to attend to a “qualifying exigency” for a spouse, registered domestic partner, parent, or child who is on active duty in the military.


AB 2992 further defines a “crime victim” under California Labor Code Section 230 and 230.1 to include:

  • A stalking, domestic violence, or sexual assault victim

  • Anyone suffering a crime that caused physical injury or that caused mental injury and a threat of physical injury

  • A person whose immediate family member is deceased as the direct result of a crime

  • Those experiencing a crime or public offense “that would constitute a misdemeanor or a felony if the crime had been committed in California by a competent adult … whether any person is arrested for, prosecuted for, or convicted of, committing the crime.”

Under the California Labor Code, crime victims are allowed to take “time off from work to obtain or attempt to obtain relief.”


Labor Code Section 233 allows employees to use one-half of accumulated sick leave to care for spouses and children, a provision known as “kin care.” Some employers, however, mistakenly charge employees with kin care time off whenever they take personal sick leave. AB 2017 now empowers the employee to designate the type of leave being taken.


AB 2257 expands the categories of workers who are exempt from taking the ABC Test to determine their status as either an employee or an independent contractor. The ABC Test was codified previously under AB 5. The dozen or so new exemptions include those working as insurance adjusters, those in the writing/editing, arts and sound recording professions, as well as real estate appraisers and others. They can now continue working as independent contractors.


SB 973 requires employers with 100 or more employees, who currently must submit the annual federal Employer Information Report known as EEO-1, to share the same data about employees’ race, ethnicity, and gender by job category with the state Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH).


When employers reach discharge settlements with employees, they cannot include a “no hire” provision barring re-employment with the company. If the employee had engaged in sexual harassment or sexual assault, however, the ban on “no hire” was traditionally waived. AB 2143 now requires employers who wish to use the “no hire” exception for sexual misconduct to have documented the event prior to the employee’s filing a claim that led to the settlement.


A 2018 law requires corporate boards of directors to include a female member by December 31 of this year. AB 979 now requires that boards include members from “underrepresented communities” (ethnic minorities and those identifying as LGBT) by the end of 2022.

Rely on an Experienced Attorney for Help

This brief introduction cannot include all of the nuances, variations, and mandates of the new laws. Before you run afoul of these new requirements because of their complexity, you should seek the guidance and direction of an experienced and knowledgeable employment attorney.

At Robinson Bradford LLP, we diligently follow all laws affecting employers and employees in the Golden State. We can field your questions and offer you solid advice and guidance for implementing all new laws, as well as represent you if you find yourself in a legal issue over employment law.

If you’re in Costa Mesa, Temecula, Stockton, or the nearby communities, call us immediately for a free consultation. Let us listen to your concerns and help direct you to full compliance with all employment laws.