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Are You Aware of (and Complying with) the Latest State and Local Labor Laws Protecting Workers?

New employment legislation may be slow on the federal level, but that’s anything but the case with state and local legislators. State and local labor laws have reached an all-time high, requiring employers to sift through the latest rules to ensure they’re extending the proper protections to their workers. 

Emerging topics include paid sick leave, natural hair discrimination, disclosure of criminal history, the privacy of salary history and predictable scheduling. All initiatives aim to better protect workers, prevent discrimination and allow them to earn a fair wage for appropriate work hours. Plus, several of these bills have posting requirements. 

Here’s how these new workplace laws could affect your business: 

1. Paid Sick Leave Laws 

Until the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States, there were no federal laws requiring employers to provide paid leave for employees. But in the face of a growing health and safety crisis, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) was passed, affecting all private employers with fewer than 500 employees as well as public employers. Until December 31, 2020, the law provides 80 hours of paid leave for eligible full-time employees for various COVID-19 reasons. 

As of late June 2020, 13 states, the District of Columbia and 19 other jurisdictions also provide paid sick days, protecting an estimated 46 million private sector workers. The states are: Arizona, Connecticut, California, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. They permit workers to earn paid sick days to recover from illness, seek medical care, or for a sick family member. 

The cities and counties offering similar provisions include: San Francisco, Oakland, Emeryville, Los Angeles, Berkeley, Santa Monica and San Diego (CA); New York City, and Westchester County (NY); Seattle and Tacoma (WA); Philadelphia and Pittsburgh (PA); Montgomery County (MD); Chicago and Cook County (IL); and St. Paul, Minneapolis and Duluth (MN). 

2. Natural Hair Discrimination

California was the first state to ban discrimination against natural hair. Referred to as the CROWN Act — Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair — the California measure became effective January 1, 2020. The law recognizes that workplace policies prohibiting natural hair, including afros, braids, twists and locks, have a disparate impact on black individuals. Particularly, they’re more likely to deter or burden black applicants than any other group.

Soon after, New York joined California with legislation prohibiting hair discrimination in the workplace. Since then, dozens of states and cities have proposed or passed similar legislation, including Colorado, New Jersey, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin – and Cincinnati, OH, Boston, MA and Montgomery County, MD. 

Workplace employment issues continue to make news as state and local governments propose employment law legislation at a frenzied pace.

3. “Ban the Box” Law Offers Second Chance

Employment has been described as “one of the most effective tools” in helping to prevent offenders from returning to a life of crime. Unfortunately, it’s common for job seekers to be dropped from the hiring process if they reveal a previous arrest. That’s why “Ban the Box” legislation is gaining popularity. By prohibiting employers from asking about a criminal conviction on the job application, the measure gives job candidates a chance to move forward on their own merits and skills. Nationwide, 35 states and more than 150 cities and counties have adopted “Ban the Box” to eliminate the stigma of a criminal record. 

4. Salary History Questions May Be Off Limits

If you routinely ask applicants about their previous salary history, you may need to stop. More than 17 states now prohibit employers from requesting salary history information from applications. Maryland is the latest, with the law becoming effective October 1, 2020 — and Suffolk County, NY, has a new law effective August 25, 2020.

The law is significant because a worker’s salary history often follows them from job to job. Low pay at an early job can have a lasting effect because employers often base their offers on salary history instead of a candidate’s skills. Women earn about 79 percent of what men earn and the Massachusetts law is one step toward narrowing that gap by basing salaries on skills instead of salary history, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. The legislation’s goal is to make sure applicants are compensated for what they bring to the company. No posters are required, but as the topic gains momentum, they’re likely. 

5. Scheduling Law Protects Workers

“Predictable scheduling” laws pertaining to advance notice of scheduling and the need to compensate employees if their work schedules are suddenly changed. These laws limit “just in time” or “on-call” scheduling practices, mostly in the retail and restaurant industries. San Francisco and Seattle were the first cities to pass these legal measures, which also included workplace posting requirements. Most recently, Chicago has passed the Fair Workweek Ordinance, which took effect July 1, 2020 — and the issue is expected to gain traction in more cities across the nation. 

Easily Achieve Year-Round Compliance 

In a single year, it’s not unusual for our legal team to identify and track hundreds of state and local posting changes (including those described in this article). Changes can be complex — and require continual monitoring regarding related posting requirements.

With the dedicated service of Poster Guard® Compliance Protection, you’re ensured 365 days of hassle-free labor law posting compliance. You’ll receive an up-to-date federal, state and local poster set, along with automatic poster replacements every time a mandatory change occurs. Best of all, you’re guaranteed 100% compliance.

Additionally, the Mandatory Employee Handout Service gives you immediate access to notifications often triggered by employee events — such as a request for medical leave. You'll have all the employee notifications required by federal, state, county and city laws. 

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