While most Californians celebrated New Year’s Day on the 1st of January, new laws created and passed by lawmakers last year entered into force, providing new protections for workers in 2021. Legislation focused on issues related to the still ongoing pandemic, providing special benefits to working citizens of the Golden State that are affected by Covid-19 – but also made moves to strengthen cybersecurity and data privacy. The state has promised to fight against any inconsistencies with workers’ compensation and benefits by pursuing new ways for businesses to report employment data while encouraging diversified representation in a corporate setting.
Notable Covid-19 Legislation
- Senate Bill 1159 (SB1159) presumes that any workers who contract Covid-19 did so in the line of duty, making them eligible for workers’ compensation unless the employer can prove otherwise.
- Assembly Bill 685 (AB685) now requires employers to improve their Covid-19 response by making it necessary to inform workers of a coronavirus outbreak within one day, avoiding greater risk of infection due to any systematic delays in notification. It also makes companies responsible for having an effective safety and disinfection protocol in the case of workplace exposure – and requires them to report any such exposure to the local authorities.
- Assembly Bill 1867 (AB1867) orders all employers with five hundred or more employees in California to allow Covid-19 infected workers to continue working remotely, or otherwise provide paid sick leave if the job cannot be accomplished outside the actual place of work.
Beyond Covid-19 related laws, the California Privacy Rights Act, approved in November, is set for implementation, and will revamp privacy laws all over the state. It follows the guidelines of the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) closely – making it easier for the exchange of information between Europe and California and fostering the continuation of healthy business ties with employees and partners located outside of the United States. While the rest of the country awaits privacy regulations on a federal level, it will be interesting to see if legislators from other states deem California’s path to be one worthy of emulation.
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