New Laws for 2021

California has passed new laws that take effect in 2021.  From criminal justice reform, Covid-19 exposure notification, changes to paid family leave, to the diversification of corporate boards, it is important to keep these changes in mind.

Family leave – Expansion to include more workers


Previously, employers with 50 or more employees were required to offer 12 weeks of family leave.  Under the new law, these protections have been expanded to include companies with five or more employees requiring that the same amount of family leave is provided. (See an act to amend and repeal Section 12945.6 of, and to amend, repeal, and add Section 12945.2 of, the Government Code, relating to employment; Click here.)

Diversifying Executive Boards


A law that went into effect in 2019 already requires all publicly owned companies based in California to have at least one woman on the board.  Now, by the end of 2021, any board with at least five (5) members must also now have at least two (2) women, and any board with six (6) members has to have three (3) women.  In addition, companies are also given a one-year timeline to add more diversity: boards with at least four (4) members need to have two or more directors from underrepresented communities (meaning “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”). (See the act to amend Section 301.3 of, and to add Sections 301.4 and 2115.6 to, the Corporations Code; click here.)

Coronavirus exposure in the workplace and notification of employees


A law, which is in effect from 2021 to 2023, requires businesses to notify employees and the general public of a coronavirus exposure at the workplace within a day of exposure. (See the act to amend, repeal, and add Sections 6325 and 6432 of, and to add and repeal Section 6409.6 of, the Labor Code, relating to occupational safety; click here.)

Protections for student loan borrowers


Assembly Bill 376 implements a host of new protections for student loan borrowers and makes it harder for lenders to take advantage of people who may not know all their rights.  The law goes into effect in July 2021. (See an act to add Title 1.6C.10 (commencing with Section 1788.100) to Part 4 of Division 3 of the Civil Code, and to amend Sections 28104, 28112, 28130, and 28140 of, and to repeal Sections 28134 and 28136 of, the Financial Code, relating to student loans; click here.)

Child under 6 years old left unattended in car – Protection from liability for rescuer


It is already illegal to leave a child under 6 years old in a car unattended.  This new law provides protection from civil and criminal liability for property damage or trespassing for people who break into a car to rescue a child (from danger, heat, exposure). (See Civil Code Section 43.102; click here.)

Minimum wage increases

As of January 1, 2021, California’s minimum wage is $14/hour for employers with 26 or more employees and $13/hour for employers with 25 or less.  The rate will increase by $1/hour every January 1st until the minimum wage is $15/hour.

Creation of a California task force on slavery reparations


Under a new California law, a Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans is created to study the history of slavery in the United States and how that legacy is still impacting slaves’ descendants.  After researching and hearing witness testimony, the Task Force will recommend how reparations may be paid out in California and who would receive those payments.  (See Chapter 4.5 (commencing with Section 8301) is added to Division 1 of Title 2 of the Government Code; click here.)

Opportunities for inmate firefighters


The new law allows people who worked on inmate fire crews while incarcerated to petition the court upon release to have their records cleared in order ease the process of securing employment after release, which includes employment as a professional firefighter.  Those convicted of sex offenses and certain violent felonies are not included in this law.  (See an act to add Section 1203.4b to the Penal Code, relating to convictions; click here.)

Parolees have right to vote after sentence


In the November 2020 election, voters passed Proposition 17 which restores felons’ right to vote after the completion of their sentence.

Protections for student loan borrowers


Assembly Bill 376 implements a host of new protections for student loan borrowers and makes it harder for lenders to take advantage of people who may not know all their rights.  The law goes into effect in July 2021. (See an act to add Title 1.6C.10 (commencing with Section 1788.100) to Part 4 of Division 3 of the Civil Code, and to amend Sections 28104, 28112, 28130, and 28140 of, and to repeal Sections 28134 and 28136 of, the Financial Code, relating to student loans; click here.)

Demilitarizing police uniforms


In an effort to keep law enforcement from wearing uniforms that resemble military uniforms, no longer can camouflage and military-like outfits be worn by law enforcement. (See Penal Code Section 13655; click here.)

Increased punishment for texting and driving


Texting while driving is already illegal, but the punishment has been increased so that two (2) convictions in 36 months will add a ‘violation point’ to one’s record starting in July 2021. This new law also applies to talking on a cell phone without a hands-free device while driving.  (See Amendment to Section 12810.3 of the Vehicle Code; click here.)

If you have any legal issues, please contact the Dias Law Firm, Inc. 

By: Steven E. Alfieris

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