The new year has brought new laws to California that went into effect on January 1. Here's a rundown on some of the most noteworthy new laws.

MINIMUM WAGE

This law has already been in place and has called for the minimum wage to continue to be raised in the state until it eventually reaches $15 an hour. In 2021 the minimum wage is now $14 an hour for businesses with more than 25 employees and $13 an hour for businesses with less than 25 employees.

The law also continues to essentially provide a raise for salaried employees who aren't paid on an hourly basis as it essentially requires them to be paid twice the minimum wage.

COVID-19 SAFETY

There are now more stringent laws in place to make sure employers notify employees of COVID-19 conditions in their workplace in an effort to protect their safety.

Employers must now inform their employees within 24 hours of any potential COVID-19 exposure. Employers must also keep employees informed on their virus safety measures. Employers must also inform local public health agencies of any outbreak within 48 hours. An outbreak is considered three cases in a two-week period.

Cal/OSHA also now has the authority to immediately shut down a worksite that's considered to be an “imminent hazard” to employees. Before there was a 30-day administrative process before a worksite could be shut down.

WORKER'S COMPENSATION

There have been businesses trying to deny worker's compensation in COVID-19 cases, claiming essential workers who contracted COVID-19 must receive worker's compensation unless the business can prove the virus was contracted elsewhere.

SHERIFF'S OVERSIGHT

One of the major new pieces of legislation is much like major cities have police commissions meant to serve as watchdogs of police departments, counties can now put in place oversight boards for their sheriff's departments.

There will also be a state office of inspector general to serve as an oversight agency for sheriff's offices. The oversight boards and the inspector general will basically have blanket authority to issue subpoenas to investigate sheriff's offices or as the law puts it “when deemed necessary to investigate a matter within their jurisdiction.”

The law was opposed by the California State Sheriff's Association which stated the law was unnecessary as counties already have authority to oversee sheriff's offices. The association stated county counsels and grand juries already have subpoena power when it comes to sheriff's offices.

CONSUMER FINANCIAL PROTECTION

As a result of a new law there will be a lot more regulation of various industries designed to protect consumers. Industries previous not regulated that will now be regulated include debt collectors, agencies that offer debt and credit card relief. Loans for for profit colleges and technical schools will be among the areas under more scrutiny as well.

There is now the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation. Consumers can file a complaint with the department by visiting https://dfpi.ca.gov/file-a-complaint/ or calling toll free at (866) 275-2677 or (916) 327-7585.

FLAVORED TOBACCO BANNED

The sale of flavored e-cigarettes and menthol cigarettes in the state are now banned, although there are exceptions. But the sale of flavored tobacco products is basically no longer allowed in the state.

There are exemptions for hookahs and loose leaf and pipe tobacco and cigars that cost $12 or more.

And it's likely the tobacco industry will eventually be successful in placing a measure on the state ballot for the state's voters to consider overturning the new law.

SEX OFFENDER REGISTRY

One of the actions Governor Gavin Newsom was most criticized for was one he signed into law that basically now treats the LGBTQ community the same as the heterosexual community when it comes to the Sex Offender Registry. Newsom's action caused great consternation and confusion.

The law now provides the same protections to the LGBTQ community that's provided to the heterosexual community when it comes to not being placed on the Sex Offender Registry. Judges have been given the discretion not to place an adult on the Sex Offender Registry when that person has been convicted after having consensual sex with a minor 14 years or older with the age difference isn't more than 10 years. Judges can now use that same discretion with the LGBTQ community.

INDEPENDENT CONTRACTORS

Proposition 22 was approved in November so those who work for such businesses as Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, Instacart and Postmates are still considered independent contractors. But they must be paid 120 percent of the state minimum wage for the work they do. But it just covers the time for driving passengers.

Drivers don't have to be paid for time between rides. And drivers are also barred from unionizing. Some of these independent contractors though will be eligible for a health insurance stipend.

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