Three Important New Employment Laws Taking Effect on January 1, 2021

Employment Law  

December 7, 2020

The California legislature enacted several new laws in 2020 that will impact California employers next year.  Below is a summary of three of the most important laws taking effect on January 1st.  These laws apply to both large and small California employers and require their attention before the end of this year.

AB 685 – Notice Obligations for COVID-19 Workplace Exposures

AB 685 will now require employers to promptly notify employees of potential COVID-19 exposures.  After learning an employee has tested positive, an employer will have 24 hours to provide written notice to other employees who worked at the same jobsite as that person.  The bill also will require employers to notify public health officials within 48 hours if three or more of its employees test positive within a two-week period.  Additionally, the bill will increase Cal/OSHA’s enforcement authority and allow the agency to close businesses whose workplace creates an “imminent hazard” of COVID-19 infections.

SB 1383 – Expansion of CFRA Protections

SB 1383 greatly expands the California Family Rights Act’s leave protections.  Previously, the CFRA applied to employers with 50 or more employees.  Now, it will apply to small employers too.  Employers with 5 or more employees will now also need to provide 12 weeks of CFRA leave to all employees who provide reasonable notice and a qualifying reason for their requested leave.  The bill also expands who may be cared for during the leave.  Before, leave to care for a family member was limited to an employee’s child, parent, spouse, or domestic partner.  Now, an employee can also obtain leave to care for a grandparent, grandchild, or sibling.  Additionally, the bill expands the definition of “child” by eliminating the prior requirement that he or she be under 18 years old or an adult dependent.

AB 2017 – Kin Care Leave Designation

California employees may currently use half their accrued sick leave to care for a family member.  This is often referred to as “kin care.”  AB 2017 clarifies that employees have the exclusive right to designate whether their sick leave is being used for kin care.  The revision is designed to prevent designation errors by employers and ensure they do not draw down available kin care leave for employees who previously took personal sick leave.

Given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, these three laws will greatly affect California employers in the coming year.  Both large and small employers should therefore immediately review their policies, procedures, and practices to ensure compliance with these laws before they go into effect on January 1, 2021.