The U.S. Department of Labor administers and enforces over 180 federal laws pertaining to labor, many of which are changing in 2021. We’ll discuss the basics of employment law first before going over the new laws on pay equity, and minimum wage increases, among others. To stay legally compliant, you must comply with these updates, or you may suffer financial loss.

Understanding the Basics of Employment Law

Employment law is complicated, vast, and ever-changing. Here are the basics.

  • Wages and Hours: Employers must pay minimum wage, overtime, and a regular rate of pay. Employers can’t hire children under 16 and must adhere to the Immigration Act.
  • Workplace Safety and Health: Employers covered by the OSH Act must comply with OSHA’s regulations and safety standards and keep their workplace hazard-free.
  • Workers Compensation: A wide-sweeping law that offers workers monetary compensation if they meet specific criteria, like becoming ill on the job.
  • Employee Benefit Security: Regulates employers who provide pension or welfare.
  • Union Acts: Protects unions by upholding labor standards and rights.
  • Employee Protection: Protects whistleblowers or employees who complain.
  • Uniforme Services Act: Guarantees veterans’ reemployment with an employer.
  • Polygraph Protection: Prevents the use of lie detector tests.
  • Garnishment of Wages: Employers can garnish wages under the law.
  • Family and Medical Leave: Requires employers give 12 weeks unpaid job protection for eligible employers who give birth or adopt a child or have a serious illness.

There are also laws pertaining to veteran preference in the workplace, government aid, migrant workers, miner safety, construction rights, transportation rights, plant closing, and posting.

If you need further employment law advice, speak to an attorney who can advise you on the basics like wages and hours, safety and health, worker’s compensation, and more.

New Employment Law Changes Arriving in 2021

The new Biden Administration will roll out the following laws.

1. Federal, State, and Local COVID-19 Sick Leave

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) required employers to provide COVID-related paid sick leave that was expanded to their families and medical leave that involved the pandemic in some fashion. Although the bill was supposed to expire on December 31st, 2020, the second round of COVID-19 bills extended FFCRA with an added tax benefit.

As of 20201, many states have created their own bills and COVID-19 related laws that support their community. For example, New York allows for 5 days of paid COVID-19 leave, while Colorado requires at least 80 hours of leave to be available for all public health emergencies.

2. New Pay Equity Laws

Pay equity laws have been around for years, but state law is starting to catch up to employee wage requests. Colorado specifically created the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act in 2021, which mandates the inclusion of benefits in job openings and available opportunities for current employees. California requires employers with 100 or more employees to submit an Equal Employment and Wage Report every year. A Paycheck Fairness Act may follow.

3. Minimum Wage Increases

The federal minimum wage hasn’t moved since 2009, but the Biden Administration expects to raise it to $15 gradually in 4 years. The Biden Administration will prioritize the following.

  • Sign Equality Act: Biden will sign an Equality Act that provides explicit and consistent non-discrimination protections for all LGBTQ+ people in employment, credit, housing, education, federally funded programs, public spaces and services, and jury services.
  • Eliminating Class Action Waivers and Pre-Dispute Arbitration: Biden will likely support the Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal Act, which requires employers to litigate disputes in court. This law could lead to class-wide liability for employment claims.
  • Improved Labor and Union Laws: Biden wants to increase unionization and collective bargaining by incentivizing workers to take back their rights. He promised to protect their right to organize and increase penalties possessed on businesses who interfere.

Most of these laws are continuations of an existing law, which may require a bit of adjustment.

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