Snapshot of the New Laws of 2021
The 2019-2020 legislative session was unlike any other. Due to the pandemic, weeks of legislative hearings in Sacramento were cancelled. This caused hundreds of bills introduced in the legislature to be abandoned and many bills to be drafted and introduced in record time. Gov. Newsom signed only 372 new laws in 2020, which is the lowest number of new laws over five decades. Here are a few of the new laws that went into affect on January 1st that might impact you.
COVID-19 & Health
- AB 685: Introduced by Asm. Eloise Reyes (47th Assembly District), this bill requires employers to notify workers of possible workplace exposure to COVID-19. Additionally, employers will have to report outbreaks to public health departments and Cal/OSHA will greater oversight to enforce pandemic safety violations in the workplace.
- SB 1159: Introduced by Sen. Jerry Hill (13th Senate District), this bill creates a disputable presumption that illness or death from COVID-19 is an occupational injury eligible for Worker’s Compensation benefits.
- SB 855: Introduced by Sen. Scott Weiner (11th Senate District), this bill requires health plans to cover medically necessary treatment for all recognized mental health and substance abuse disorders. Prior to this year, California insurers were only required to cover treatments for nine specific mental health disorders.
Workplace & Employment
- SB 973: Introduced by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (19th Senate District), this bill requires all companies with a hundred or more employees to annually submit reports to the Department of Fair Employment and Housing regarding employee wages and salaries by gender, race, and ethnicity to identify discriminatory differences in pay.
- SB 1383: Introduced by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (19th Senate District), this bill gives small business employees job protection if they need to take time off to care for family members. It also expands the definition of family member to include domestic partners, grandparents, grandchildren, siblings, and in-laws.
- AB 979: Introduced by Asm. Chris Holden (41st Assembly District), this bill requires all publicly held companies headquartered in California to have at least one person from an underrepresented community on the board of directors by the end of 2021, and at least three members on boards of 9+ people by the end of 2022. Underrepresented communities are defined as African-American, Asian-American, Latinx, LGBTQ, Native American, and Pacific-Islander.
- AB 2257: Introduced by Asm. Lorena Gonzalez (80th Assembly District), the bill exempts certain professions from 2019’s AB 5, which reclassified many contract workers to employees. This reclassification eschews the ABC test set up in AB 5 and adopts the multi-factor test used in S. G. Borello & Sons, Inc. v. Department of Industrial Relations (1989) 48 Cal.3d 341.
- AB 2992: Introduced by Asm. Shirley Weber (79th Assembly District), this bill protects victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and other crimes that cause physical and mental injury from employer action for taking time off from work to obtain assistance for healthcare, welfare, or safety for the victim or victim’s minor child.
Student Loan Reform
- AB 376: Introduced by Asm. Mark Stone (29th Assembly District), this bill expands upon 2016’s Student Loan Servicing Act to further regulate companies that service student loans and expand protections for student loan borrowers.
Criminal Justice Reform
- AB 901: Introduced by Asm. Mike Gipson (64th Assembly District), this bill changes how children who are acting out in or truant from school are treated. They will no longer be referred to probation or become wards of the court. Instead they will be referred to community support services. This bill also will make it easier for juveniles in custody to access legal counsel prior to questioning, and beginning in July, the state will begin phasing out juvenile prisons.
- AB 1076: Introduced by Asm. Phil Ting (19th Assembly District), this bill automatically clears the arrest records of individuals arrested but not convicted of a crime when the statute of limitations for the crime has run. It will also clear the arrest record for individuals who entered diversion program upon completion of the requirements of the program. Previously the clearing of the arrest record required a petition to the court. This will applies only to those arrested or convicted after January 1, 2021.
- AB 1506: Introduced by Asm. Kevin McCarthy (7th Assembly District), this bill requires state-led investigations of police shootings of unarmed individuals. Additionally, requires the California Department of Justice, starting in 2023, to create a Police Practices Division which will review local enforcement agencies use of deadly force policies, at their request.
- AB 2147: Introduced by Asm. Eloise Reyes (47th Assembly District), this bill allows inmate firefighters that were convicted of non-violent crimes to have their records expunged and use their training to gain employment as firefighters.
If you would like to see a comprehensive list of all the bills introduced in the 2019-2020 session and their outcomes, visit the California Legislative Information website and search by session year 2019-2020.