Chez Hadley, Staff

Out with the old, in the with new—laws, that is. With the dropping of the ball in Times Square, the New Year rings in a new slate of laws and as with most years, many of them are fueled by the previous years’ headlines. 

Not surprisingly, many of the 320 laws Governor Gavin Newsom signed were inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic. Employers can now be fined for failure to provide written notice —within 24 hours—to workers who may have been exposed to someone testing positive for Coronavirus and hospitals are required to maintain a three-month stockpile of personal protective equipment (PPE). 

A bill prohibiting the use of choke holds and another requiring that no later than the close of 2021, corporate board of directors for publicly owned companies need to have a minimum of one director from an underrepresented community reflect the wave of protests surrounding police violence and racial equity that swept the nation last summer. And still another new law establishes a task force to recommend if and how reparations could be paid out and to whom.

Due to California’s wildfires, insurers must now notify policyholders if their offer to renew a policy reduces fire coverage and get it acknowledged in writing.

In response to the Central Park woman who falsely accused a black man of threatening her, anyone who makes a 911 call to threaten or harass someone based on factors including race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation can be fined. 

In what will be good news for California workers, the state’s minimum wage increases to $14 per hour for businesses employing 26 or more people, and $13 per hour for businesses that have 25 or fewer employees. Here are just some of the other laws that will be on the books—and enforceable— in 2021.

Workplace

  • Companies with as few as five employees are required to provide up to 12 workweeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to their employees for such life events as serious health problems, birth of a child, and military active duty. They must, however, have been employed for more than 12 months, and for more than 1,250 hours during the previous 12-month period. 
  • Certain professionals — such as musicians, writers, and a host of others are exempted from AB 5, a law signed last year that requiring the reclassification of many contractors to employees.
  • Employees now have the power to use their sick days at their sole discretion. Businesses cannot deny an employee’s use of their sick days for whatever reason the employee deems necessary. 
  • Those working for app-based companies like Uber and DoorDash may now be eligible for a guaranteed wage along with limited number of health and other benefits.

Criminal Justice

  • Law enforcement agency will be required to maintain a policy that provides guidelines on the use of force, utilizing de-escalation techniques and other alternatives to force whenever possible, specific guidelines for the application of deadly force, and factors for evaluating and reviewing all use of force incidents. Agencies are also required to make those policies available to the public.
  • Inmates who work in the state’s fire camps (and were not convicted of violent felonies or sex offenses) now have the opportunity to clear their records upon release and may have the possibility of finding work in a professional capacity as firefighters.
  • Youths up to age 17 can’t be questioned by police or waive their rights until they have a chance to consult with an attorney.
  • Defendants no longer have to prove “intentional discrimination” in challenging charges or convictions based on race, ethnicity or national origin. 
  • Women being held in jail or prison who are pregnant —or believe they might be pregnant —are required to have access to a pregnancy test and other pregnancy-related services. 
  • Good Samaritans are exempted from civil and criminal liability when rescuing an endangered child under six in the event of property damage.
  • In a law prompted by the death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant, a first responder or law enforcement officer who takes photos of the dead at the scene of a fatality for any other reason than the official investigation can be charged with a misdemeanor.
  • A sentence of probation for a misdemeanor will be limited to a maximum of one year, and probation for a felony will be limited to two years. 
  • California must automatically clear re-cords for arrests that did not result in conviction after the statute of limitations has passed, and those around probation and jail once the sentence is completed. Individuals ​arrested or convicted after Jan. 1, 2021 qualify.
  • Felons now have the right to vote upon completion of their sentences.

Education

  • Students enrolling in Cal State campuses this fall will be required to take an ethnic studies course (focusing in on Native Americans, Latino Americans, Asian Americans and or African Americans) in order to graduate.
  • Companies providing student loans must inform borrowers about programs that offer lower monthly payments or debt forgiveness. Consumer lawsuits will be allowed against those companies failing to comply.

Other

  • Family members of murder victims and other violent crimes may be allowed to get out of a housing lease or rental early.
  • Manufacturers of cleaning products are required to list all of the ingredients on the labels.
  • Those operating social media platforms are required to disclose whether or not that social media platform has a policy or mechanism in place to address the spread of misinformation. The law requires the disclosure to be easily accessible on the social media platform’s website and mobile application.
  • Beginning in July, the recipients of unemployment compensation benefits have the right to choose whether the benefit payments are directly deposited into a qualifying account or applied to a prepaid debit card.

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