It’s 2021…What’s New for Business Owners?

If you own a business, and especially if you have employees, there are several legal developments you need to be aware of as we move into 2021.  With the new administration, it’s likely that other changes will be coming, but in this first week of February, there are just a few things to note — Arizona’s new law regarding distracted driving is now in effect, the minimum wage has increased, and adult-use recreational marijuana may affect your workplace.

Distracted Driving Law

On January 1, Arizona’s distracted driving law became effective.  It is now illegal to hold your mobile device while driving, or use it unless it is in hands-free mode.  As a business owner – how does this impact you?

If you have employees that drive for your company, either in their own vehicle or in a company vehicle, ensuring that they adhere to this new law is critical.  As an employer, you hold vicarious liability for the actions taken by your employees when they are acting in the scope of their job duties.  This means that if your employee is making a delivery, on a service call at a customer’s home or office, or simply picking up lunch for the office staff – your company is responsible for any actions they take while driving.  Should your employee be involved in an accident, they may get the ticket, but you may be liable for the cost of any damage incurred.  (Now is a good time to make sure your business insurance covers auto liability.)

Be sure to inform your employees of this new law and stress that your company has a zero-tolerance policy for using a mobile device – for talking, texting, or any other activity – while driving.  If your employee handbook does not address this new regulation, it’s time for an update!

Arizona Minimum Wage

The Fair Wages and Healthy Families Act, passed by Arizona voters in 2016, provides for a cost-of-living increase on January 1 of each year after 2020.  Effective this past January 1, the minimum wage in Arizona is $12.15 – until the next increase in 2022.  If you have workers who receive tips, they can be paid at a lower hourly rate, however their total compensation, when tips are factored in, must be equal to or greater than Arizona’s minimum wage.  Make sure your payroll provider has accounted for this change.  Penalties for withholding wages can be stiff!

Recreational Marijuana

In 2020, Arizona voters approved the adult use of recreational marijuana.  Of course, you can prohibit possession or use of marijuana while on the job, but how else can you protect your company?

As an employer, you do not have to allow any worker who is under the influence of marijuana used on personal time to remain on the job, and you are permitted to require a drug test for any employee you suspect is impaired (and for job applicants, of course).  Be sure that the procedures you follow related to the drug testing and any subsequent discipline (up to and including termination) are communicated clearly to your staff and are documented in your employee handbook.  Let me know if you’d like assistance crafting a firm, clear, and legally-enforceable policy.

If you have any questions about how your business might be impacted by new laws or would like to review your existing documentation, don’t hesitate to call or schedule an appointment.

NOTE: THIS ARTICLE IS FOR GENERAL INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES. IT DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE, NOR DOES IT CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP. EACH SITUATION IS DIFFERENT. YOU SHOULD CONSULT WITH AN ATTORNEY TO DETERMINE YOUR LEGAL RIGHTS, REMEDIES, AND DUTIES.

By Wendy M. Anderson, Esq.
Law Office of Wendy Anderson, PLLC
480-825-4509
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