New California Laws in 2021

Every year, hundreds of new California laws take effect Jan. 1, reflecting the trials and tribulations of the previous year. Here a few of the new laws taking effect in 2021:

Minimum wage going up

Employers must pay a minimum wage of $14 per hour, a $1 increase from last year’s hourly minimum. Businesses with fewer than 26 workers must increase their hourly wage to at least $13. The raise is part of the phased increases that will eventually make the state's minimum wage $15.

coronavirus exposure law

A law, which is in effect from 2021 to 2023, requires businesses to notify employees and the general public of a coronavirus exposure at the workplace within a day of exposure.

Expansion of paid family-leave benefits

A new law which expands family-leave benefits for nearly six million residents. It also ensures that Californians who work for an employer with at least five employees are included in job protection benefits. The new law also expands on the potential reasons for taking leave, making it possible for workers affected by Covid-19 to take time off to care for a parent, sibling or grandchild.

Transgender protections

The Transgender Respect, Agency and Dignity Act allows incarcerated transgender, gender-nonconforming and intersex individuals to be housed and searched according to their gender identity. Individuals will be housed where they feel they will be the safest. State corrections officers will be required to record gender identity, gender pronouns and honorifics during intake and throughout incarceration.

Inmate firefighters

The new law allows people who worked on inmate fire crews while incarcerated to petition the court upon release to have their records cleared. That would make it easier for them to get a job after release, including as a professional firefighter. Those convicted of sex offenses and certain violent felonies are exempt.

Parolees' right to vote

Voters passed Proposition 17 in the November election, which restores the right of felons to vote after the completion of their sentence.

Criminal justice reform

The California Racial Justice Act expands opportunities for defendants to challenge a charge or conviction by demonstrating that there was racial bias present in their case. For judgments issued on or after Jan. 1, challenges can be made if racially coded language is used in court or if there were displays of intentional discrimination by a lawyer, judge or juror.

Texting and driving

It's already the law that you can't get caught with your phone in your hand while driving, whether you're talking or texting, but now the punishment is getting a little stricter. Two convictions in 36 months will add a point to your record starting in July 2021.

Flavored tobacco ban (delayed)

This law bans the sale of all flavored tobacco products in California. The goal, lawmakers say, is to make these products less appealing to children and teens. But just before the end of 2020, California state officials agreed to delay the ban after opponents, led by tobacco companies, maintained they filed enough signatures to put the new law to a statewide vote.


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