California Employment Law - A Fox Rothschild Blog

As the sun rises on New Year’s Day 2021, California employment law will once again become more involved and challenging. For many employers, the following are the top five developments they most need to prepare for.

  1. One Measure of Relief: COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave Requirements Expire

For much of 2020, California law has required that employers of 500 or more employees provide eligible employees COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave. Employees qualify for the supplemental paid sick leave if their health care provider advises they self-quarantine due to COVID-19, they are subject to a governmental isolation order related to COVID-19 or their employer bars them from working due to health concerns related to potential transmission. The law requires that covered employers provide qualified full-time employees, for example, up to 80 hours of supplemental paid sick leave.

California’s COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave law remains in effect through December 31, 2020, and then expires, meaning employers will no longer be required to provide the Supplemental Paid Sick Leave.

The federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) has, since April 1, 2020, required employers of fewer than 500 employees to provide up to 80 hours of Emergency Paid Sick Leave to employees unable to work due to COVID-19, including employees caring for a son or daughter whose school closed due to the pandemic.

Like California’s program, the federal mandate that smaller employers provide Emergency Paid Sick Leave is effective through December 31, 2020, and then expires.

The COVID-19 relief package signed into law by President Trump on December 27, 2020 does not extend federal Emergency Paid Sick Leave or include any variety of paid sick leave for those unable to work due to COVID-19.

As a consequence, effective New Year’s Day 2021, employers operating in California will be subject to paid sick leave requirements under only the state’s Healthy Workplace Healthy Family Act of 2014 and any local paid sick leave ordinance.

  1. The California Family Rights Act Expands in Historic Fashion

To date, only private sector employers with 50 or more employees have been subject to the California Family Rights Act (CFRA). The Act, like the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), requires that covered employers provide eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave each 12-month period when leave is needed because of the employee’s own serious health condition, to care for specified family members facing medical challenges or to care for a child.

Effective January 1, 2021, private sector employers of only five or more employees will be subject to CFRA. Also effective January 1, covered employers will be required to grant family leave to employees to care for their ill grandparent, grandchild or sibling.

My earlier blog post more fully explaining the coming expansion of CFRA and practical considerations for employers is here.

  1. State and Local Minimum Wage Rates Increase Once Again

Effective January 1, 2021, the California minimum wage for employers of 25 or fewer employees increases from $12.00 to $13.00 per hour. The state minimum wage for employers of more than 25 employees increases January 1 from $13.00 to $14.00. As a consequence of the increases, the minimum salary that must be paid as a part of satisfying the white collar exemptions increases to $58,240.00 annually for those employed by employers of more than 25 employees and to $54,080.00 annually for those employed by employers of 25 or fewer employees.

Also effective New Year’s Day, the local minimum wage increases in cities throughout the state. As of New Year’s Day, the minimum wage increases to $15.65 per hour in Cupertino, Los Altos, Palo Alto and Santa Clara, California. The minimum wage increases on January 1 in San Jose to $15.45, in Oakland to $14.36 and in San Diego to $14.00 per hour, as additional examples.

Local minimum wage figures will increase effective July 1, 2021 in localities including the City and County of San Francisco, the City and County of Los Angeles, and Santa Monica.

  1. Employers Must Notify All Employees who were On-Site with a Person with COVID-19

Assembly Bill 685, effective January 1, 2021, obligates employers to give notice broadly across the workforce whenever a person with COVID-19 was in the workplace or onsite. The obligation arises when an employer learns that an employee has or had COVID-19, that an employee was exposed to a person (employee or otherwise) in the workplace with COVID-19, or that a subcontracted worker or other person with COVID-19 was onsite. In those circumstances, the employer must notify “all employees” who were at the worksite with the infected person within the infectious period that they might have been exposed to COVID-19.

Employers must give the notice within one business day of learning of the potential exposure. Additional information must be included in the notice.

AB 685 includes additional obligations and subjects employers to costly penalties for violations.

My earlier blog post more fully describing AB 685 and offering practical guidance is here.

  1. California Employers Must File Their First Pay Data Reports with the DFEH

With the New Year, California private sector employers of 100 or more employees will be required to file with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) data on the race, ethnicity and sex of their employees in each of 10 job categories. According to the legislation, the data will be used for “targeted enforcement” of the state’s pay equity, anti-discrimination and wage and hour laws.

Employers must file their first reports no later than March 31, 2021.

The new law also empowers the DFEH to accept, investigate and prosecute complaints for violations of the California Fair Pay Act, an important extension of the agency’s authority.

A more complete discussion of the new requirements is in my earlier post here.


As always, well-informed, thoughtful preparation will be key to avoiding violating the many new measures becoming effective with the New Year.

Please contact your Fox Rothschild LLP counsel for help addressing any of the subjects in this post.

This post provides general information and does not constitute legal advice to any person with respect to any circumstance. This post does not create an attorney-client relationship with any person.