As we look ahead to the new year, below is a summary of several updates to the employment laws in California, some of which have already gone into effect and others of which are effective January 1, 2021.  The following is an overview of some of the key changes California employers should be aware of, which will require handbook and/or policy updates to remain in legal compliance next year.

  1. Expansion of the California Family Rights Act (CFRA):  While the CFRA currently applies only to employers with 50 or more employees, effective January 1, 2021, it will also apply to employers with 5 or more employeesThis law will entitle eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid time off work for the following reasons: (1) to care for their own serious health condition, (2) to care for the serious health condition of a family member, (3) to bond with a newborn baby or a child newly placed with the employee for adoption or foster care, and (4) for certain military purposes.  Employees are eligible for CFRA leave provided they have worked for the employer for at least 12 months and have worked at least 1,250 hours in the 12-month period preceding the commencement of the leave.  Although the leave need not be paid, employees will be entitled to remain eligible for health insurance continuation and to participate in other benefit plans offered by the employer.  Moreover, CFRA leave does not need to be taken all at once and instead can be taken intermittently.  With respect to larger employers that are already covered by CFRA and the FMLA, the new law expands CFRA coverage in several key ways, including by increasing the scope of family members for whom leave can be taken to cover grandparents, grandchildren, and siblings, and eliminating carveouts that existed for certain highly paid or “key” employees, among other changes. 
  1. Mandatory Notification to Employees of COVID-19 Exposure:  Effective January 1, 2021, an employer who learns of a potential exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace must provide a written notice within one business day to all other employees who were at the same worksite during the “infectious period” informing them that they may have been exposed to COVID-19.  The notice must include information about COVID-19 related benefits available under applicable law, including information about paid leaves and workers’ compensation.  In the event of an “outbreak,” defined in this law as three or more COVID-19 cases within a 14-day period, the employer must also notify the local public health department within 48 hours.  More guidance and definitions related to this law is available here.
  1. Expansion of Crime Victims Leave:  Effective January 1, 2021, a new law will expand the employment-related protections for crime victims, including victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, and stalking, to make it easier for such employees to take job-protected time off work for specified reasons. 
  1. State Minimum Wage Increase:  Effective January 1, the state minimum wage for businesses with 26 or more employees will be $14 per hour ($13 per hour for smaller employers).  For employees in LA and Santa Monica, the minimum wage is higher — for businesses with 26 or more employees working in those cities, it is $15 per hour ($14.25 per hour for smaller employers, which will go up to $15 per hour on July 1).  Increases in the state minimum wage impact those employees classified as exempt salaried workers because exempt salaried workers must be paid at least twice the state minimum wage for full-time employment (40 hours per week).  Therefore, as of January 1, exempt salaried workers should be paid no less than $54,080 to retain exempt status ($58,240 for employers with 26 or more employees).
  1. Changes to Independent Contractor Law (AB 5):  Governor Newsom recently signed off on a new law that repeals AB 5 effective immediately.  While the new law, AB 2257, retains the ABC test, it expands on several exceptions to the ABC test, including with respect to employers who are in a “business-to-business” relationship with contractors, thereby potentially enabling more people to be properly classified as contractors rather than employees provided numerous criteria are met.   
  1. COVID-19 Rebuttable Presumption for Workers’ Compensation Coverage:  Already in effect is a law requiring employers with 5 or more employees to report to their workers’ compensation administrator certain specified information within 3 business days of learning that an employee has tested positive for COVID-19, if the infected employee performed work at the employer’s worksite within 14 days of the positive test.  This law also establishes a rebuttable presumption for workers’ compensation coverage purposes that if an employee tested positive for COVID-19 within 14 days of reporting to work during a COVID-19 “outbreak” (as defined in the statute) at the worksite, the employee got infected at work.
  1. Anti-Sexual Harassment Training Deadline – January 1, 2021:  Employers with five or more employees have until January 1 to provide anti-sexual harassment training to their staff. Such employers are required to provide at least 2 hours of anti-sexual harassment training to all supervisory employees and at least one hour of anti-sexual harassment training to all nonsupervisory employees by January 1 and at least once every 2 years thereafter.

In light of these changes, all California employers should update their handbooks and personnel policies to bring them into compliance for 2021. 

If you have any questions about these new laws or would like us to review or revise your handbooks or other employment-related documentation to bring it up to date in light of the new legislation, please a Bernstein & Friedland, P.C. attorney at 818-817-7570. 


The above summary has been prepared for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice.  

Bernstein & Friedland, P.C. is a boutique employment law firm in Los Angeles specializing in wrongful termination, discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and unpaid wage and overtime matters.  Please visit our website at to learn more about us.

Polina Bernstein

Polina Bernstein

Polina Bernstein founded Bernstein & Friedland, P.C. in 2009 and is lead litigation counsel at the firm.

Diana Friedland

Diana Friedland

Diana Friedland is a partner at Bernstein & Friedland, P.C. Her practice focuses on employment litigation and counseling.

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