With the arrival a new year, 2021 brings new state laws, including those pertaining to COVID-19, policing and equality in pay.

Some of these laws are described as follows:

COVID-19 in the workplace

Through Assembly Bill (AB) 685, a new state law requires employers to report COVID-19 outbreaks in the workplace.

This bill was signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sept. 17, and took effect on Jan. 1.

Employers are now required to inform their local health agency of an outbreak, which is defined as at least three potential or confirmed COVID-19 cases within their business in a two-week period.

The law also requires employers to inform the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration regarding any COVID-19 outbreak within their workplace.

It is additionally mandatory that employers reveal any potential COVID-19 cases to their employees.

Employers who do not comply by these regulations face civil penalties and citations.

These requirements must be abided by through Jan. 1, 2023, when this law will expire.

Police holds

In response to the high-profile deaths of people in police custody in the United States, AB 1196 was passed to make it illegal for police to use chokeholds and carotid restraints.

Newsom signed this bill last September.

Various other states also banned this type of police practice following the May 2020 death of George Floyd, an African American man who died while a white Minneapolis policeman knelt on his back during his detainment.

In a Sept. 30 press statement, Newsom referred to his signing of AB 1196 as a response to a call to action.

“Americans across the country took to the streets this summer, rightfully demanding more and better of our criminal justice system – and of ourselves,” he wrote. “We heard those calls for action loud and clear, and today are advancing reforms to improve policing practices by ending the carotid hold and requiring independent investigations in officer-involved shootings.”

Inmate firefighters

A new law presenting inmate firefighters with a route to becoming professional firefighters went into effect on Jan. 1 through Newsom’s signing of AB 2147 last September.

This bill was introduced during a year in which fires devastated millions of acres of land throughout California.

Certain inmates who served in inmate prison fire camps through the California Conservation Camp program can now have their convictions expunged in order to have a simpler path to finding employment – especially in firefighting – following their releases. Serious crimes such as rape and kidnapping do not qualify.

Equity in pay

A new law created through Senate Bill 973 aims toward ensuring equal pay for equal work for all employees.

Newsom signed this bill into law on Sept. 30, 2020, and it took effect on Jan. 1.

It is now required that private employers with 100 or more employees submit annual reports that include their business’s number of employees by gender, race and ethnicity, and their job categories and payment details.

Officials can use this information to identify potentially discriminatory wage patterns.

Although these records will be confidentially maintained, employees suing for discriminatory practices will be permitted to acquire reports for legal filings.

The first of these reports must be received by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing by March 31.

Minimum wage

Increases in the state’s required minimum wage for workers went into effect on Jan. 1.

Employers with 26 or more employees must now pay them at least $14 per hour.

Businesses with less than 26 employees are required to pay at least the minimum wage of $13 per hour.

These increases are part of an existing, incremental-based law designed to have all workers in California be paid at least $15 per hour by 2023.