2021 Employment Law: Why We’re Watching These Four States

By Kris Janisch
Published Jan. 20, 2020

2021 Employment Law

While many employers have an eye on the new presidential administration, there are several matters at the state level to look out for in 2021.

While employers await the actions of the new presidential administration, interesting employment law developments also lie ahead at the state level. When it comes to 2021 employment law, we’re watching these four states.

From recently enacted laws to changes due to COVID-19, employers will need to be on their toes in 2021 (and beyond, of course).


In Illinois, there are several laws to keep an eye on, starting with its economic hub of Cook County, which includes approximately 130 total municipalities.

As many employers know, the county allows cities to opt in or out of its minimum wage and earned sick leave laws. But with the impacts of COVID-19, it will be interesting to see how jurisdictions approach the two.

In the past, cities have generally decided to adopt both or neither. However, some have retained one or the other, as was the case in 2020.

Still, with COVID-19 taking its toll on minimum wage workers, and the clear need for paid sick leave during the pandemic, cities in Cook County may take a closer look at their specific needs when determining whether to opt in or opt out.

Some jurisdictions in the U.S. have already delayed minimum wage increases due to the coronavirus, which further illustrates why Cook County bears watching in 2021.

One last item on Illinois: recreational use of marijuana has been legal for adults 21 and older since Jan. 1, 2020. Employers should review their policies to ensure they are in compliance with testing, hiring and more.


While the state of Florida has no paid leave laws to worry about in 2021, its minimum wage laws are worth monitoring.

As a result of a voter-approved ballot initiative last November, the state will increase minimum wage twice in 2021. Already, Florida has increased its minimum wage, with the standard rate at $8.65 since the beginning of the year.

Come Sept. 30, however, it will increase again, a relatively large jump to $10 an hour. It’s part of a plan to eventually bring Florida’s minimum wage to $15.

Business groups in Florida opposed the increase. How the new rate affects the state economy over this and succeeding years could influence how lawmakers view the best way to set minimum wage — through legislative action or putting it in the hands of voters.

New York

Along with California, New York is a state that always gives employers troubles.

On the paid leave side, the New York’s paid sick leave law went into effect Sept. 30, 2020. But employers should note that employees began accruing paid sick leave on that date. Employees could begin using the earned time off on Jan. 1, 2021.

Meanwhile, benefits for New York’s paid family and medical leave law (PFML) increased at the beginning of 2021. Qualifying employees are now eligible for up to 12 weeks of job-protected paid time off, up from 10. (It is the third and final scheduled increase.)

In 2021, payroll deductions for PFML are 0.511 percent of an employee’s gross wages per pay period, with a maximum contribution of $385.34. Check out our previous blog on New York’s paid family and medical leave law for more specifics, including examples of benefits by income level.

On the minimum wage front, as of Dec. 31, 2020, tip allowances are not permitted in miscellaneous industries (all other industries except hospitality, farmworkers, and building service). Employers are not permitted to keep any portion of tips employees receive.

Also, fast food workers outside of New York City will see minimum wage increase to $15 on July 1, 2021. And by the end of 2021, minimum wage in Long Island and Westchester will reach $15.

The state rate as of the end of 2020 reached $12.50, with the next increase, at the end of 2021, going up based on the Consumer Price Index.

Of course, these are only a handful of the employment law matters in New York employers will need to monitor as the year progresses.


Finally, we come to Maryland, which has been active in passing new employment laws in recent years.

A number of new laws went into effect in October 2020, which means employers should take a second look at policies and procedures to ensure compliance.

Equal Pay

Maryland’s equal pay law was expanded to include bans on employers taking adverse action against employees who ask about their pay. Employers cannot prohibit workers from discussing wages with a fellow employee, sign non-disclosure agreements and more.

Salary History Ban

Also on Oct. 1, Maryland’s salary history ban went into effect. Specifically, the law:

  • Prohibits previous pay history from being used as part of the hiring process
  • Requires employers to provide the job’s wage range upon request
  • Prohibits employers from asking applicants about salary history
  • Prohibits employers from using wage history to determine a new hire’s pay

Hair Discrimination

Maryland amended its Fair Employment Practices Act to prohibit discrimination based on hairstyles.

The new language bars employment discrimination against people with certain types of hair, including:

  • Afros
  • Locks
  • Braids
  • Twists
  • Textured hair

Minimum Wage

Finally, though not new, Maryland’s minimum wage for large employers increased to $11.75 on Jan. 1, 2021. It will continue to increase annually until it reaches $15 in 2025.


While we track employment laws across the U.S. and Canada, some states stand out more than others. California has long been a hotbed of new laws for employers to monitor, the paid sick leave laws in Texas cities remain murky (though unlikely to go through) and the coronavirus pandemic will likely lead to a spate of new laws.

Employers will face complex challenges in 2021 and the years to come.

This Employment Law News blog is intended for market awareness only, it is not to be used for legal advice or counsel.

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