New Laws that Could Impact You in 2021

2021 New Rules

2021 is only days away and as in other years, the New Year will usher in new laws. Below we’ve highlighted some of the most notable new traffic and employment laws and how they could impact you.

As always, if you’ve been injured in an accident or have a workplace issue, the nationally recognized attorneys at The Dominguez Firm are here to help with free consultations at 800-818-1818. On behalf of all of us, have a safe and Happy New Year!

New Traffic Laws for 2021

The new traffic laws cover everything from children in distress to warning sirens for emergencies. CHP will begin enforcing all of the new traffic laws in 2021, but one, the hi-lo warning siren for emergency vehicles debuted in September 2020. Hi-lo sirens were successfully used in Napa and Sonoma Counties during wildfires earlier this year. Popular in Europe, this unique siren sound will be used to alert the public of any emergency evacuations. That success has led to a gradual statewide rollout as the CHP works to provide a uniform sound across all agencies.

New protections for unattended children in locked vehicles

No child should be left unattended in an overheated car, frankly. But sadly, it does happen. Starting on January 1st, any good Samaritan who rescues an unattended child under the age of 6 from a dangerously hot or cold vehicle will not face criminal or civil charges if they are forced to damage the vehicle during the rescue. They won’t face trespassing charges either. With these new protections in place, someone can now act quickly and without hesitation.

Tougher penalties for texting or calling and driving

We all know that driving and texting isn’t just inconsiderate, it’s dangerous too. Any driver who does not use a hands-free device while driving currently faces a fine. Starting on July 1st, 2021, they’ll also face a point on their license if they do it a second time within 36 months of their initial fine. If the person is under the age of 18, they’ll automatically receive a point on their license for their first violation. Studies have shown that states with tough laws regarding texting or calling and driving report fewer emergency room visits than states that don’t have such laws.

New criteria for what is considered an emergency vehicle and new right of way rules

Hearing police or fire truck sirens on the freeway automatically means drivers should slow down and move out of the way if they can. It’s the law. Starting on January 1st, 2021, drivers will be required to do the same on local streets and roads for any emergency vehicles with their sirens and lights on. The definition of what qualifies as an emergency vehicle has also been expanded to include CalTrans vehicles and tow trucks. Any driver who does not slow down or pull over, traffic permitting, will face a ticket.

New Employment Laws for 2021

The shadow of COVID-19 continues to loom over the workplace. California Governor Gavin Newsom signed 20 new labor laws for 2021. Six of those new laws directly address employees and COVID-19.  

The minimum wage will go up again in 2021. On January 1st, 2021, employers will less than 25 employees will be required to pay their employees $13.00 per hour. Currently, the minimum wage is $12.00. Employers with 26 or more employees will have to pay $14.00 per hour, up from the current $13.00 per hour. Keep in mind, certain cities, such as Los Angeles, have their own minimum wage, which will go to $15 per hour in 2021.

Employee Right to Know law

Probably the most prominent of the new COVID-related employment laws is the Employee Right to Know law. Assembly Bill 685 goes into effect on January 1st. Under this new law, employers will be required to inform employees and the public of any workplace COVID exposure within one day of the exposure. The notification must be in writing and must include information regarding employee benefits and rights due to the situation. Employee health privacy policy regulations remain in effect. That is, an employer cannot announce which employees have COVID-19 to the rest of their staff.

Employers will also be required to inform employees of the steps they’ll take to disinfect and protect the workplace due to the exposure. Failure to follow these requirements will result in sizable fines. A business that does not comply also faces being shut down.

Expanded employee protections and coverage under the California Family Rights Act

For 2021, smaller employers will have to begin complying with many of the laws previously directed only at California’s middle and larger employers. One example is the California Family Rights Act(CFRA). Up until this year, only employers with 50 or more employees were subject to the CFRA. In a few days, employers with as few as 5 employees will also have to offer family leave to those who request it.

Employees eligible for CFRA leave must meet the following requirements:

  • Have been with the same employer for more than 12 months.
  • Have worked a minimum of 1,250 hours in those 12 months.

Currently, employees can take CFRA leave to care for a spouse, domestic partner, minor child, adult dependent child or parent. The list of approved family members will expand in 2021 to include an adult child (dependent or not), child of a domestic partner, grandchild, sibling or grandparent. The amount of leave allowed remains unchanged at 12 weeks.

The other change impacts parents taking leave to care for their new child. Previously, parents working in the same workplace could not take 12 weeks leave together. That provision has been eliminated for 2021, regardless of the size of the employer.

Gig workers will again be classified as independent contractors in 2021

This past Election Day, 58% of California voters easily approved Proposition 22. That will mean gig workers, such as Uber drivers and Instacart delivery people will once again be legally classified as independent contractors. To be clear, however, things will not completely go back to how they were. Starting on January 1st, gig economy drivers will now have:

  • A guaranteed wage while they are on the job, though not while they are waiting for a call.
  • Drivers and delivery people will be entitled to 30 cents for every mile they drive while on a call.
  • Drivers who log on at least 15 hours a week will be eligible for health subsidies.

SB 1159 makes it easier for certain employees with COVID-19 to collect workers’ compensation

SB 1159 presumes that anyone who becomes ill due to COVID-19 under certain criteria can be classified as having an occupational injury. That will make it easier for them to file for workers’ compensation. This law went into effect at the end of 2020 and is scheduled to remain in place until January 1st, 2023.

Among those directly impacted by this new law are:

  • First responders and health care workers.
  • Employees who work for an employer with 5 or more employees, if they test positive for COVID-19 during an outbreak in their workplace.

The link above provides more specific information on this new law.

The Dominguez Firm is here to help

The personal injury and employment law attorneys at The Dominguez Firm are well aware of these 2021 laws and how they could impact you and your family. We are prepared to fight for your rights whether it be at the local or state level.

If you have been injured in an accident or are dealing with a workplace problem, call The Dominguez Firm at 800-818-1818 for a free and confidential consultation. And remember: you win, or you don’t pay, so call us today!