Here are some of the most significant employment law updates for 2021.
The minimum wage for all California employees has increased. For employers with 26 or more employees, it has increased to $14 per hour. For employers with 25 or less employees, it has increased to $13 per hour. This also means that the minimum annual salary for certain exempt employees has increased to $58,240 and $54,080, respectively.
California Family Rights Act
One of the most significant changes for small to mid-sized employers in California is the change to the California Family Rights Act. The Act, which previously only applied to employers with 50 or more employees, now applies to employers with at least 5 employees.
The amended law now requires employers with at least 5 employees to allow an employee to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid protected leave for certain qualifying reasons. An employee may take leave under the Act to bond with their new child or to care for themselves due to their own serious health condition or the serious health condition of a child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, spouse, or domestic partner.
The Act also allows an employee to take protected leave for a qualifying exigency related to the covered active duty or call to covered active duty of an employee’s spouse, domestic partner, child, or parent in the Armed Forces.
Generally, to be eligible for leave, the employee must have been employed by the employer for at least 12 months and must have worked at least 1,250 hours for the employer during the previous 12 month period.
Protected leave means an employee may not be terminated or retaliated against for taking such leave. An employer may also be exposed to liability for failing to permit the employee to take leave to which the employee is entitled.
An employer who violates the Act can be liable to the employee for lost wages and benefits, emotional distress damages, punitive damages, and attorney’s fees.
California law prohibits an employer from discharging, discriminating against, or retaliating against an employee who took time off from work to obtain or attempt to obtain relief after being a victim of a crime or abuse. The amendment expands existing law providing protected leave for employees who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, to include leave for victims of other crimes or offenses “that caused physical injury or that caused mental injury and a threat of physical injury.” The amendment also provides protected leave for an employee “whose immediate family member is deceased as a direct result of a crime.”
This law also requires employers with 25 or more employees to provide these employees with time off work to seek medical attention or counseling for their injuries, participate in safety planning, or obtain help from other related organizations.
Labor Code Section 1102.5, the law which prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for reporting violations of the law, has now been amended to allow an employee who establishes a violation to recover their attorney’s fees against their employer.
Employees also now have up to one year to file a retaliation complaint with the California Labor Commissioner.
AB5 – ABC Independent Contractor Test
The legislature provided several new exceptions to the ABC Independent Contractor Test. An employment attorney should always be consulted when evaluating whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor.
Contact the experienced employment attorneys at the Law Offices of Corren & Corren for any of your employment law needs.