As a profession, Human Resources continues to grow in complexity. One factor driving this change is the myriad of new employment laws and initiatives being passed on a state, county and municipal level. Lack of action on a federal level in regard to employment law is driving many local governments to take matters into their own hands. For multi-jurisdictional companies such as IST Management Services, keeping track of this ever changing landscape consumes considerable time and resources. Below are some of the areas in which states, counties and municipalities are enacting their own employment laws:
Minimum Wage: On a federal level, the minimum wage last changed over ten years ago. On July 24, 2009 it rose from $6.55 per hour to $7.25 per hour. Many local governments have passed their own minimum wage laws. On a state level, Massachusetts and Washington currently have the highest minimum wages at $11.00 per hour. Several states, including New Jersey, Illinois and Maryland have enacted minimum wage laws that will increase their minimum wages to $15.00 per hour over the next several years. Some cities such as Seattle, New York City and Austin have already hit the $15.00 per hour threshold.
Employee Pay: Nearly all states have laws on the books regarding the permissible length of pay periods. Many other states have laws that dictate how and in what manner an employee is paid. A number of states such as Colorado, Connecticut and Texas have special requirements regarding the timing of final paychecks. Others, such as Indiana, Nebraska and Tennessee require that accrued but unused PTO balances must be paid out to separating employees.
Paid Leave: Five states (California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island) offer paid short-term disability programs. To date seven states, along with Washington D.C., have initiated paid family leave laws. Similar bills have been introduced in another 18 states. Eleven states have paid sick leave laws on the books with a number of cities in states that do not have such laws, such as Chicago and Duluth, Minnesota, adopting their own initiatives. Paid leave laws are even being adopted on a county level, with Cook County (Illinois) and Montgomery County (Maryland) having their own laws on the books.
Local Taxes: Many cities and even some counties have their own income taxes for people who live or work within their borders. These are found mainly in the Midwest with Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana having robust local tax requirements. Cities such as Pittsburgh, Denver and Harrisburg levy “occupational privilege taxes” on individuals for the privilege of working within their city limits.
Applications & Interviews: Many states, such as California, Illinois and Massachusetts, have passed “ban the box” initiatives. In these states an employer is not permitted to ask about an applicant’s criminal history on the employment application. Seventeen states and nineteen local governments forbid employers from asking applicants about their prior salary history or for discriminating against applicants who decline to provide this information.
Protected Classes: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 recognizes five protected classes – race, color, religion, sex and national origin. Over the years legislation on a federal level has added others such as age (40+), citizenship, veteran status and genetic information. Many states and local governments recognize additional classes such as sexual orientation, gender identity, pregnancy, marital status, victims of domestic violence and many more.
Marijuana: While the federal government continues to treat marijuana as a Schedule I narcotic, state and city laws vary widely across the United States. Nearly half the states prohibit employment discrimination against individuals with medical marijuana cards. Illinois and Nevada have both passed laws providing employment protections for recreational marijuana users. As more states pass legislation decriminalizing recreational marijuana this list is sure to grow.
There appears to be no slowdown as states, cities and counties continue to enact their own employment laws that diverge from the federal standards. For multi-jurisdictional companies such as IST Management Services, it is vital that Human Resources professionals stay abreast of this ever shifting legal landscape. Company policies and procedures must be constantly updated and revised in order to remain in compliance with differing requirements. The Human Resources Department also has a responsibility for ensuring that field managers are properly trained and are familiar with the employment laws in their individual states, cities and counties.