Changes to State Laws January 1, 2021

by Employers Council Staff

Arizona,  Bulletin,  California,  California Legal Compliance,  Colorado,  Legislation,  New Mexico,  Utah,  Wyoming

This article briefly summarizes state employment law changes that will affect employers in January of 2021. State information is included for Arizona, Colorado, California, and New Mexico. There are no significant changes on the books for early 2021 in Utah and Wyoming.


Minimum Wage

Arizona’s minimum wage increases to $12.15 an hour, except in Flagstaff, where it increases to $15.00 per hour.

Recreational Marijuana

In the 2020 election, voters passed Proposition 207, which has taken effect with the certification of the election results. It legalizes the sale and possession of marijuana for adult recreational use. Proposition 207 explicitly states that employers can maintain drug-free workplace policies and continue to restrict the use of marijuana by employees or by prospective employees and on their property.

The Act affects employers in that it does not:

  • Restrict an employer’s right to maintain a drug- and alcohol-free workplace;
  • Prevent an employer from having workplace policies restricting the use of marijuana by current or prospective employees;
  • Require an employer to allow or accommodate the use, consumption, possession, transfer, display, transportation, sale, or cultivation of marijuana in a place of employment; or
  • Restrict an employer’s right to prohibit or regulate an employee’s recreational use of marijuana on the employer’s property.

Also, the Act prohibits individuals from smoking marijuana in a public place or open space.

Consider consulting with the Employers Council about necessary modifications to handbooks and existing drug policies.




Minimum Wage

Colorado’s minimum wage rate increases to $12.32 on January 1, 2021, as required by the state constitution.

The minimum direct cash wage for tipped employees increases from $8.98 to $9.30

Denver hiked its local minimum wage to $14.77 per hour effective January 1, 2021.

Equal Pay for Equal Work Act

Governor Polis signed the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act in May 2019, and it fully takes effect on January 1, 2021.

The law forbids pay discrimination based on genderĀ and includes a newly created right for employees who have suffered such discrimination to sue their employer. The law also requires that companies post all job openings internally, list a salary range for the position, and forbids employers from asking about salary history.

The new law permits employees who have been discriminated against to recover back pay for a period of up to three years and further awards additional damages equal to the amount of back pay owed unless the employer can demonstrate that they acted in good faith. The law does include a provision stating that any Pay Equity Analysis that an employer undertakes within two years of a lawsuit will be taken as evidence of the employer’s good faith.

Employers Council can assist with said Pay Equity Analyses. Please contact us for more information.

Healthy Families and Workplaces Act

Effective January 1, 2021, under the Healthy Families and Workplaces Act (HFWA), Colorado employers with 16 or more employees are required to provide paid sick and safe leave to eligible employees. Employees accrue at least one hour of paid sick and safe time for every 30 hours worked, up to 48 hours each year.

However, eligible employees who work for an employer with fewer than 16 employees may begin to accrue paid sick and safe time starting January 1, 2022.

This Act requires new posting requirements.

Colorado Overtime and Minimum Pay Standards (COMPS) Order 37

On January 1, 2021, COMPS Order 37 modifies and updates COMPS Order 36. Some highlights of the changes are:

  • Expands the minimum wage and overtime exemption for professional employees to cover creative professionals in addition to learned professionals, and to include an express element that exempt professionals have a primary duty of work that requires the “consistent exercise of discretion and judgment, as distinguished from routine mental, manual, mechanical or physical work”;
  • Amends the minimum wage and overtime exemption for administrative employees to require that they directly serve an executive, rather than the executive, to clarify that an executive may be not only a CEO, owner, or other top-level official but also a low- to mid-level manager who supervises two or more employees, including in manual or low-level work;
  • Eliminates the requirement that drivers and drivers’ helpers cross state lines to qualify for an exemption from the state overtime and meal and rest break requirements; and
  • Amends the definitions of employer and employee to conform with the Healthy Families and Workplaces Act (HFWA).

Please be aware the COMPS Order requires its addition to any Colorado handbook and an additional posting requirement.

When reviewing a handbook for these requirements, also consider changes implemented in 2020 relating to dress code, PTO, and any whistleblower policies you may have. Contact Employers Council for assistance.

We can also assist with the new posting requirements mentioned. You can contact our Posters service at 303-223-5466 or for more information.

New Mexico

Minimum Wage

Beginning January 1, 2021, the minimum wage across New Mexico will be $10.50, with specific locations increasing according to the following schedule:

  • Albuquerque: $10.50 (January 1, 2021);
  • Bernalillo County: $9.35 (January 1, 2021);
  • Las Cruces: $10.50 (January 1, 2021);
  • Santa Fe: Adjusted for Inflation / To Be Determined (March 1, 2021);
  • Santa Fe County: Adjusted for Inflation / To Be Determined (March 1, 2021)

Employers Council can help you navigate these new laws and regulations. Contact Employers Council for more information.

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Employers Council Staff