• Overview of 2009 State Legislation Related to the Workplace
  • March 26, 2010 | Authors: Richard I. Greenberg; Jason A. Zoldessy
  • Law Firm: Jackson Lewis LLP - New York Office
  • Human Resources Professionals and in-house counsel not only must keep up with federal legislation and regulation, but also must remain abreast of state law developments.  In 2009, many states enacted legislation relevant to and imposing obligations on private sector employers.   These pertain to many areas of workplace law, including wage and hour compliance, independent contractor misclassification, privacy rights, equal employment opportunity (“EEO”) protections and leave/time off.   Some examples of this newly enacted legislation are summarized below:

    Wage and Hour:

    • Alaska’s minimum wage rate increased to $7.75 effective January 1, 2010.
    • The Connecticut minimum wage rate increased to $8.25, effective January 1, 2010.  Connecticut also allows a lower minimum wage rate be paid to tipped employees in the hotel and restaurant industries.  The law allows hotels and restaurants to pay waitpersons and bartenders, who customarily and regularly receive tips, less than minimum wage as long as tips make up the difference.  The new minimum wage rates for these employees, effective January 1, 2010, is $5.69 for waitpersons and $7.34 for bartenders.

    Independent Contractors: 

    • Legislation was enacted in Delaware -- the “Workplace Fraud Act” -- that provides for penalties from $1,000 to $5,000 for every employee an employer misclassifies as an independent contractor in the construction industry. 
    • The Indiana Code was amended to provide for the sharing of certain information concerning the classification of individuals as independent contractors among the state Department of Labor, Department of State Revenue, Department of Workforce Development and Workers’ Compensation Board.
    • Legislation was enacted in Maryland that prohibits certain employers in the construction and landscaping industries from failing to properly classify individuals who perform work for remuneration paid by those employers, authorizes the commissioner of the Maryland Department of Labor and Industry to initiate an investigation under certain circumstances to determine whether violations occurred, and establishes a method for determining whether an employer-employee relationships exists for purposes of determining proper classification.

    Privacy:

    • Utah enacted the Employment Selection Procedures Act, which, among other things, limits an employer’s rights to obtain certain information from applicants during the hiring process.

    EEO Protections:

    • Louisiana enacted a bill providing that no person shall be held liable, discriminated against or in any way prejudiced or damaged for declining to participate in any health care service that violates his or her conscience to the extent that patient access to health care is not compromised.
    • New York enacted legislation prohibiting employers from refusing to hire or employ, or from barring or discharging from employment, individuals who have been the victim of domestic violence or stalking.

    Leave/Time Off:

    • Arkansas joined the growing number of states requiring employers to provide unpaid break time and reasonable locations for expressing breast milk.
    • California enacted legislation that establishes a right to leave and other employment protections for members of the state wing of the Civil Air Patrol.
    • Colorado and Nevada enacted legislation providing for time off for parents and guardians for involvement and participation in the school activities of their children.
    • Oregon amended its Family Military Leave Act, bolstering the right to time off for employees who are the spouse of a member of the Armed Forces of the United States, the National Guard or the military reserves forces of the United States, who has been notified of an impending call or order to active duty or who already has been deployed.