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Top 10 Laws and Regulations Affecting Employers in 2021, Part II

Here is the second half of the top 10 laws and regulations affecting California employers in 2021, changes that organizations need to keep on their radar and prepare for.

6. Wildfire smoke safety regulations

With wildfires becoming the new normal in California, Cal/OSHA has set about working on permanent wildfire smoke regulations to protect outdoor workers when the air worsens during major events.

An emergency regulation is set to expire on Jan. 31, 2021, at which time Cal/OSHA hopes to introduce the permanent replacement that would require employers to protect their outdoor workers from smoke if the Air Quality Index (AQI) exceeds 150.

Workplace safety pros expect the permanent regs to mostly mirror the emergency rules that have been in place since August 2019.

The regulations apply when the AQI for airborne particulate matter 2.5 microns (PM2.5) or smaller is 151 or greater in an area where employees are working outdoors.

The permanent regulations are expected to cover training and methods for protecting workers (like moving them inside or providing N95 respirators during high-smoke conditions).

7. Rating Bureau’s new classification for telecommuters

California employers will get a new workers’ compensation class code to assign to employees who work from home, an outgrowth of the coronavirus pandemic which thrust so many people into working from home.

The new class code, (Clerical Telecommuter Employees ― N.O.C.), will apply to employees that work from home or “away from any location of their employer,” doing office clerical work.

This class code, available on policies effective Jan. 1, 2021 or later, is to be used for employees who would have been classified under class code 8810, Office Clerical employees, that are doing work at home 50% or more of the time.

8. Sick leave and kin care law

Under the current Labor Code, an employee is entitled to use up to half of their annual accrued sick leave to care for a family member, but not the full amount of sick leave they have.

AB 2017 amends Labor Code Section 233 to give employees the sole discretion to use as much of their sick leave as they want to care for a family member, with no approval from their employer required. The law takes effect. Jan. 1, 2021.

A “family member” is defined as the employee’s child, parent or guardian, spouse or domestic partner, grandparent, grandchild, or sibling.

9. Data protections strengthened further

California voters this year passed Prop. 24, which established a new law: the California Privacy Rights Act of 2020. The CPRA amends and strengthens the state’s current data protection privacy law, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which governs how organizations have to protect personal data that they collect.

The CPRA gives additional rights to consumers and places additional obligations on businesses. It provides additional protection for sensitive personal information, expands the CCPA’s opt-out rights to include new types of information-sharing, and requires businesses to provide additional mechanisms for individuals to access, correct, or delete data, with a particular focus on information used by automated decision-making systems.

While the law doesn’t take full effect until Jan. 1, 2023, it has a 12-month look-back period. Privacy experts advise companies to start working on their data protection infrastructure in 2021 in order to be ready for this expansive new law.

10. State minimum wage increases

As of January 1, 2021, California’s minimum wage increases to $14 for employers with 26 or more employees, and to $13 for those with 25 or fewer employees. Local minimum wages may also increase. Check your local rules for other minimum wage requirements.

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