Politics & Government

6 New California Laws That May Impact Your Life In 2021

Hundreds of bills were signed into law in 2020. Here are a handful of them that may affect you the most.

Hundreds of bills were signed into law in 2020. Here are a handful of them that may affect you the most.
Hundreds of bills were signed into law in 2020. Here are a handful of them that may affect you the most. (Renee Schiavone/Patch)

CALIFORNIA — Californians will awake to a slew of new laws Jan. 1, affecting millions of California workers and families.

The new laws tackle everything from how much time workers can take off to care for loved ones to how many members of minority communities a corporation must include on its board of directors, and the minimum steps a company must take to protect employees from the coronavirus pandemic.

The new laws going into effect reflect the major headlines and challenges of 2020. They're born out of the pandemic and the need to protect workers and shield families. They attempt to tackle the wildfire threat that drove hundreds of thousands of Golden State residents from their homes in 2020. And they attempt to tackle racial inequality following a year after millions took to the streets to march for racial justice.


SEE ALSO: Motorists Beware: 4 New Calif. Roadway Safety Laws Coming In 2021


It can be difficult to keep track of the new laws that will affect you, so we've gathered a handful of the laws likely to impact residents the most in the Golden State come 2021.

Employee "Right To Know"

Assembly Bill 685, which becomes law Jan. 1, will require employers to notify employees and the public of a potential workplace COVID-19 exposure within a day of the exposure.

Companies must notify their workers in writing, inform them of their benefits and rights, and provide a comprehensive plan for disinfection.

The company also has 48 hours to notify the local public health agency of a workplace outbreak.
Employers who fail to do so risk major penalties. AB 685 authorizes Cal-OSHA to close workplaces that pose "an imminent hazard to employees" due to the coronavirus.

Minority Board Representation

After requiring publicly owned companies based in California to have at least one woman on the board of directors, the state is looking to further diversify corporate boards with Assembly Bill 979. By the end of 2021, publicly held California corporations must have at least one board member from an unrepresented community, self-identifying as Black, African American, Hispanic, Latino, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, Native Hawaiian or Alaska Native, or gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

By the end of 2022, if the board has nine or more board seats, then at least three seats must go to members of minority communities, according to the new law. Companies that fail to come into compliance face a series of fines between $100,000 and $300,000. AB 979 is already facing legal challenges making their way through the courts.

Family Rights Act

Senate Bill 1383, which goes into effect Jan. 1, extends family leave protections to employees at smaller California businesses. It also increases the number of loved ones who qualify for protected family leave. Businesses that employ five or more workers will have to allow them to take family leave to care for grandparents, grandchildren and siblings in addition to spouse, a registered domestic partner, child or parent. Lastly, it provides leave related to active duty of an worker's spouse, registered domestic partner, child, or parent.

Gender Wage Gap

Senate Bill 973, which goes into effect Jan. 1, might not seem to have an immediate effect upon workers, but California lawmakers believe it will help tackle the historic gender wage gap in the state in the long run.

The law requires certain California companies that have 100 or more employees to report employee pay data to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing annually. The wage data is intended to help officials identify potentially discriminatory wage patterns.

The law would require employers to report their number of employees by race, ethnicity and sex within a series of job categories. That data could then be parsed for discriminatory patterns. While the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing would keep the reports confidential, employees suing for discrimination may be able to access the reports for legal filings.

Slavery Reparations

Assembly Bill 3121 establishes a state task force to study and come up with proposals for providing reparations to the descendants of slaves. The law, an attempt at racial reckoning in the state, will require the task force to meet by June. It will be comprised of appointees by the governor and state Senate leader.

The task force will study the history of slavery in California and its impact on the descendants of those slaves across generations. It will have the power to hold hearings and compel testimony and evidence. From there, the task force will be expected to put forth solutions for redressing that impact. While it's unknown what the task force will recommend for reparations, this law could have a major economic impact on the state as well as the lives of families affected by slavery.

Expunged Records For Inmate Firefighters

In a year when catastrophic wildfires charred millions of acres across the state and stretched firefighting crews to the breaking point, California passed Assembly Bill 2147. The law will allow inmates who work in prison fire camps a chance to have their records expunged upon release. The law is designed to reward their service by making it easier for them to find employment upon release especially among the ranks of professional firefighters at a time when California proved to be woefully short. The bill's authors contend it could be key in protecting residents in this era of catastrophic wildfires.

"Inmates who have stood on the frontlines, battling historic fires should not be denied the right to later become a professional firefighter," Newsom said upon signing the law.

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