2021 California Legal Updates

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California has several labor law changes and amendments scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2021. These include mandatory child abuse reporting, expanded crime victim leave, and increased minimum wages and exempt employee salaries.

Mandated Reporter Training

California has added employees who supervise and directly interact with minors, as well as “HR employees,” to its list of “mandated reporters.” However, these employees are only mandated reporters if the organization has 5+ employees and employs at least one minor. Mandated reporters must report known or suspected child abuse and neglect, and/or sexual abuse, to any of several state or county agencies. Failure to report is a crime.

HR employees are defined as the employee or employees designated by the employer to accept any complaints of misconduct. For example, if your company policy directs employees to report acts of discrimination or harassment to their manager or supervisor, the CEO, a Board member, or any other non-HR person, that person is now a mandated reporter under the law.

Employers of these newly mandated reporters must provide them with training on identifying and reporting child abuse and neglect. The state provides compliant online trainings here. Time spent taking the training is considered hours worked and must be paid.

Employers must also collect a signed acknowledgment form related to these duties from each employee who is a mandated reporter. You can download a template for this here.

The law does not say when the training must be completed. However, since the duty to report takes effect immediately on January 1 and failure to report can have significant penalties, we would recommend training current employees as soon as possible and including this training as part of any new “HR employee” onboarding.

Crime Victim Leave

Previously, employers of all sizes were required to provide job-protected leave to victims of stalking, domestic violence, and sexual assault. Now, this law also includes victims of any crime that caused physical or mental injury or a threat of physical injury.

The law entitles employees who are victims to take time off from work to “obtain any relief.” For example, taking steps to ensure their or their child’s health, safety, or welfare, such as by trying to get a restraining order.

Employees are also entitled to leave if their family member has died because of a crime. For purposes of this law, “family member” includes children, parents, spouses, and siblings. It also includes anyone who has an equivalent close association with the employee. You can access a full list of family members in the HR Support Center here.

As with the current California crime victim leave law, employers may require reasonable advance notice of the need for leave, if notice is feasible. And if the employee isn’t able to give advance notice, the employer can require documentation. However, the law now states that a signed statement from the employee that their absence was for a covered reason is acceptable documentation.

Finally, employers with 25+ employees must now provide leave to all crime victims for reasons similar to those previously required only for sexual assault and domestic abuse victims. For example, medical attention, counseling, or safety planning.

If you haven’t already, we recommend updating your policies with these changes as soon as possible. (Let us know if you need any help creating or updating your employee handbook!)

California Family Rights Act (CFRA)

Next, significant amendments to the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) take effect on January 1. Most notably, this California law will now apply to employers with just 5+ employees.

CFRA requires covered employers to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to eligible employees for specified reasons. (For example, baby bonding!) Additional details can be found in the HR Support Center here.

Additionally, employers must post a notice about employees’ CFRA rights. A compliant notice will be provided by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). However, it has not updated the current CFRA notice with the new information yet. We recommend checking the DFEH website periodically as we expect it will be available before January 1.

Pay Data Reporting

Beginning next year, employers with 100+ employees must begin reporting pay data annually to the DFEH. The first deadline is March 31, 2021. To help employers with this new requirement, the DFEH has created an FAQ here. Additionally, we expect further guidance in the new year.

Minimum Wages & Salaries

Statewide Minimum Wage

On January 1, California’s minimum wage will increase to $14 per hour for employers with 26+ employees. The new minimum wage for employers with 25 or fewer employees will be $13 per hour.

Exempt Employee Minimum Salaries and Wages

The minimum salary threshold for exempt employees will increase to $1,120 per week ($58,240 per year) for employers with 26+ employees, and $1,040 per week ($54,080 per year) for employees with 25 or fewer employees.

Additionally, the minimum rate for exempt computer software employees will increase to $47.48 per hour.

Finally, the minimum rate for exempt licensed physicians and surgeons paid on an hourly basis will increase to $86.49 per hour.

Local Minimum Wages

The minimum wage will also increase in certain cities. You can find a complete list of these cities and their minimum wages in the HR Support Center here. Keep in mind, you should always pay employees per the highest applicable wage. (Whether federal, state, or local!)

Let’s Talk

Are you ready for these new California law changes to take effect? For more 2021 legal updates, check our Events page for information on our annual Labor Law Webinar in January! And for more HR laws, checklists, and policies, head over to our HR Support Center.

Need a little extra support? No matter your situation, SDP has layers of HR support that can help. Learn more about our HR Support Services here. And don’t forget to follow us on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn for even more business tips & news!

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

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