Some Changes in United States Employment Laws in 2021


According to the National Law Review, many amendments in major employment laws in various states in the U.S. took effect in January 2021. The most common revisions across several states cover minimum wage, paid leave, and non-compete agreements.

Existing employers should have already applied these changes. New business owners must learn about these and craft their regulations and processes accordingly.

Minimum Wages in 2021

Not all states revised their minimum wage in 2021. According to the Labor Law Center, those that increased by a dollar or more are Virginia from $7.25 to $9.50, New Mexico from $9.00 to $10.50, Arkansas from $10.00 to $11.00, Illinois from $10.00 to $11.00, New Jersey from $11.00 to $12.00

Those who increased by less than a dollar are Alaska from $10.19 to $10.34, Arizona from $12.00 to $12.15, Colorado from $12.00 to $12.32, Florida from $8.56 to $8.65, Maine from $12.00 to $12.15, Maryland from $11.00 to $11.75, Massachusetts from $12.75 to $13.50, Missouri at $9.45 to $10.30, Montana from $8.65 to $8.75, Ohio from $8.70 to $8.80, South Dakota from $9.30 to $9.45, Vermont from $10.96 to $11.75, and Washington from $13.50 to $13.69.

  • California changed from $13.00 to $14.00 only for employers with 26 or more employees.
  • Nevada changed from $9.00 to $9.75 only for employees not receiving company benefits. Those who do are at $8.75.
  • Oregon changed from $12.00 to $12.75 for the state in general, but it is now $14.00 in the Portland Metro Area and $12.00 in non-urban counties.
  • New York changed from $11.80 to $12.50 for the state in general, but for New York City, it is now $15.00, while for Long Island and Westchester Counties, it is now $14.00.
  • Minnesota changed from $10.00 to $10.08 for large employers, while small employers are at $8.21 per hour.

Paid Leave Benefits

The Paid Family Leave program in California currently permits leave for an emergency in relation to the active or call to active military duty. This applies to the employee’s domestic partner, child, or parent. Under the kin care law, employees now have the sole discretion to use their mandatory paid sick leave period to take care of an ill family member.

In Colorado, all employers must provide public health emergency paid sick leave within the year, in addition to any PHEL provided in 2020. That should equate to 80 hours. All business owners with 16 or more workers must provide paid sick leave to employees in addition to PHEL. By January 1, 2022, this will apply to all employers.

In Connecticut, employees must pay 50% of a percentage of their wage to the Connecticut Paid Leave Authority trust fund. Approved paid leave applications’ payments will start in January 2022.

In Massachusetts, since Dec 15, 2020, employees had paid leaves for a newborn, a new foster kid, or a newly adopted kid. Since January 1, employees had paid leave for illness, to take care of an ill family member, or see to the affairs of a family member on active military duty in another country. By July 1, employees will have family and medical leaves paid to take care of a seriously ill family member.


In Maine, business owners with over ten employees must provide leave that is paid up to 40 hours per year based on an hour for every 40 hours of work. Workers can utilize the leave for any reason.

In New York, employees can now use their paid sick leaves accrued since September 30, 2020. The cap for paid family leaves increased from 10 weeks to 12 weeks. The Earned Sick and Safe Time Act (ESSTA) is now in line with the New York State Paid Sick Leave Law. Employers must provide each employee with information in writing regarding accrued, used, and the remaining balance of sick and safe leave.

Non-Compete Agreements

Non-compete agreements are complicated. It is best for business owners to engage the services of an experienced business lawyer like Stout Law to prepare these agreements.

In Virginia, employers were not allowed to impose agreements that limit low-wage employees’ capability to compete with the employer after termination. This was applied since July 1 last year.

In Washington, the non-compete policy set requirements for disclosure, a year-and-a-half limit, and increased annual income thresholds for employees from $100,000 to $101,390 and $253,475 from $250,000 for contractors starting January 1 last year. The revision set a mandatory garden leave, meaning non-compete agreements are invalid for laid-off employees unless the employers pay their salary during the restricted period. The revisions also forbid out-of-state clauses and agreements that are too broad.

The Ban on Non-Compete Agreements Amendment Act of 2020 was signed on January 11, 2021, in Washington, D.C. It will take effect upon publication in the District of Columbia Register and after the 30-day congressional review period expires.

Compliance with the Law

Ignorance of the law will not protect business owners from suit and penalties. It is, therefore, their responsibility to keep up with labor law and any amendments. If a law has complex legal requirements, people must get proper legal advice to avoid unwanted consequences.

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