Employment Law Changes Effective January 1, 2021

The new year finally is in sight and with it comes changes in employment law effective January 1, 2021. The number of new laws is fewer this year, since COVID-19 was the focus of many jurisdictions during 2020. But employers still are responsible for compliance with new legislation at both the federal and state level. Here are some categories of new and revised employment laws that may affect your business.

COVID-19 protections

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) updated its COVID-19 FAQs recently to provide a quick reference guide for employers on how to protect workers during the pandemic. OSHA’s safety and health topics page provides resources to help employers comply with the new regulations. Changes include reporting, workers’ rights, safety enforcement, and preparing workplaces for returning employees.

Expanded EEOC guidance

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released updated guidance related to equal opportunity laws and COVID-19. The publication, available here, includes new information on the implications of  COVID-19 vaccination on various federal laws. As we reported in this space last month, employers can mandate vaccines provided the corresponding policy complies with workplace law; the EEOC publication further explains the issue.

Minimum wage increases

Although minimum wage at the federal level has not changed from $7.25 since 2009, 25 states have raised state minimum wages, many of which take effect January 1. To find out if your state is included, see the Department of Labor’s minimum wage law page.

Workplace posters

Some of the statutes and regulations of the Department of Labor require that employers post notices to employees at the workplace. The requirements vary according to statute, so not all employers are affected by every statute. The DOL website will help you determine which posters you need and how to download copies to ease compliance.

State employment law changes

A number of employment law changes at the state and local level are taking effect in 2021. Among the topics are independent contractors, the use of criminal records in employment decisions, overtime requirements — even the use of facial recognition technology. The Littler law firm has created a chart with summaries of many of these laws at its website.

To make sure your company is fully informed about the federal, state, and local law that applies to your business and industry, consult your employment law attorney. As always, we are happy to help.


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