A number of laws came into effect in 2021 that could have a significant impact on employers in the cannabis industry. A clear understanding of the changing legal landscape is important to avoid and limit potential liability in the New Year and beyond. Below is a brief summary of some relevant new labor laws in cannabis-friendly states:
- Extended Family and Sick Leave: California has long had employers requiring sheltered sick leave and family leave if an employee worked on a job site with 50 or more employees within a 75 mile radius.
- According to Senate Bill 1383, all employers with five or more employees must now grant up to twelve weeks of unpaid, job-protected vacation so that employees can connect with a new child or care for themselves or a family member who has a serious health condition . To be entitled to vacation, an employee must have been employed by the employer for at least 12 months and have worked at least 1,250 hours in the last 12 months. While on leave, employees have the right to continue to take out an employer’s health insurance policy and to return to work or a comparable position after completing their protected leave. Previously exempted small employers should be aware of these future obligations.
- Requirements for reporting employer salaries: According to Senate Bill 973, employers with 100 or more employees who are required to submit an annual employer information report, colloquially known as an EEO-1 report, must provide the Department of State with annual information on their employees’ wage data for fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). The report must include the number of employees of the employer by race, ethnicity and gender in certain occupational groups and salary ranges as well as the associated working hours and income.
- The first report is due on March 31, 2021, and the DFEH has set up an online portal to help employers provide this information. These reports can be complex and contain highly sensitive information. Therefore, employers are strongly advised to contact the lawyer for assistance in preparing and filing their first report.
- Increased wage requirements: Washington’s inflation-based minimum wage system has raised the minimum wage to $ 13.69 an hour in 2021. Employers with 50 or fewer employees must also pay at least $ 827 per week (or $ 43,004 per year) and employers more than $ 8.00 per year. 50 employees must pay at least $ 965 per week (or $ 50,180 per year) as of January 1 Year).
- Equal Pay for Equal Work Act: Beginning in 2021, all employers with at least one employee must: (1) provide Colorado employees with a formal notice of advertising opportunities; and (2) details of salary rates or ranges in job postings that may be conducted in Colorado (this includes virtual or remote positions).
- The Equal Pay for Equal Work Act generally requires employers to use reasonable efforts to promptly announce, publicize, or otherwise inform all current employees before making a promotion decision. An employer must provide advertising opportunities when they have or are anticipating a vacancy or a new position that might be considered a promotion for current employees given their pay, benefits, status, duties, or other potential promotions.
- By law, job postings must also include: (1) the wage rate or range for the position; (2) a general description of the rewards, commissions, or other forms of compensation offered with the job; and (3) a description of the employment benefits associated with the position.
Cannabis industry employers are facing a slew of new laws, even without the ongoing legal burden of managing workers during the COVID 19 pandemic. Employers should consider carefully reviewing all applicable laws and seeking advice from an attorney if necessary.
About the author
Conor Dale is a principal with the Jackson Lewis, PC law firm. He provides strategic advice to employers on the classification of independent contractors and employees and represents companies in the technology and cannabis industries.