The HR Director’s 2017 Employment Law Update

It’s the time of the year when every human resources VP and manager should review and implement the new employment rules and regulations taking effect this month. After all, if you’re not paying attention to these rule changes, not only is your entire organization is at risk for fines and legal repercussions, but it’s a surefire way to lose the trust of your workforce.

For 2017, here’s your state-by-state guide to employment laws taking effect early this year.

Click on any state to go directly to its updates.

AL AK AZ AR CA CO CT DE FL GA HI ID IL IN IA KS KY LA ME MD MA MI MN MS MO MT NE NV NH NJ NM NY NC ND OH OK OR PA RI SC SD TN TX UT VT VA WA WV WI WY DC

 

Alabama

Amended constitution to include an existing law regarding the right to work state, meaning employees cannot be forced to join a union as a condition of employment. Here’s the full Alabama constitutional amendment: AL HB 37.

 

Alaska

Minimum Wage Updates

Location New Hourly Rate Effective Date
Alaska Statewide $9.80 1/1/17

 

Arizona

Minimum Wage Updates

Location New Hourly Rate Effective Date
Arizona Statewide $10.00 1/1/17

 

Arkansas

Minimum Wage Updates

Location New Hourly Rate Effective Date
Arkansas Statewide $8.50 1/1/17

 

California

Minimum Wage Updates

Location New Hourly Rate Effective Date
Cupertino, CA $12.00 1/1/17
Los Altos, CA $12.00 1/1/17
Mountain View, CA $13.00 1/1/17
Oakland, CA $12.86 1/1/17
Palo Alto, CA $12.00 1/1/17
Richmond, CA $12.30 1/1/17
San Diego, CA $11.50 1/1/17
San Jose, CA $10.40 1/1/17
San Mateo, CA $12.00 1/1/17
Santa Clara $11.10 1/1/17
Sunnyvale $13.00 1/1/17
California Statewide $10.50 1/1/17

 

CALIFORNIA STATEWIDE EMPLOYMENT LAWS

New overtime exemption rates for computer software employees and licensed physicians
Effective January 1, 2017
Computer software employees rates are now $42.39 per hour, $7,359.88 per month, $88,318.55 per year, while licensed physicians and surgeons rates have increased to $77.23 per hour.

Equal Pay Legislation
Effective January 1, 2017
California also made amendments to is Labor Code toward greater equality with its Equal Pay Legislation. The first amendment prevents pay disparity with regard to race and ethnicity, which prohibits an employer from paying employees less wages than that of another race for substantially similar work. The second amendment decrees that prior salary cannot, by itself, justify any disparity in compensation.

Single-User Toilet Facilities Must Be All-Gender
Effective March 1, 2017
Workplace facilities teams will need to make all their single-user toilet facilities identify as all-gender toilet facilities starting March 1, 2017 (it includes all business establishments, places of public accommodation, or government agencies).

The Secure Choice Retirement Savings Program
Effective January 1, 2017
Last fall Gov. Brown signed into law a state-run retirement program that automatically enrolls employees who do not have employer-provided retirement plans. The Secure Choice Retirement Savings Program enrolls workers at 3%. Employers with 100 or more eligible employees have 12 months after the board opens the program for enrollment to have a payroll deposit retirement savings arrangement. Employees can change contribution levels at any time, or choose not to participate. If you want more info about this, you can read the press release.

Unfair Immigration Related Practices
Effective January 1, 2017
As of now, employers cannot request additional or different information for identification purposes than those that federal law requires. Additionally, there are a few conditions of documentation employers cannot refuse. See the full California Senate Bill for all the rules: Senate Bill No. 1001.

Use of criminal history information
Effective January 1, 2017
This new law prohibits employers from asking about juvenile criminal history on a job application, and prevents them from using it as a condition for determining employment.

Employment Contracts: Choice of Law and Forum
Effective January 1, 2017
Employers are now prohibited from requiring an employee who lives and works primarily in CA to agree to provisions that either require the employee to adjudicate outside of California a claim arising in California, or deprives the employee of the substantive protection of California law with respect to a controversy arising in California.

Crime Victim Protections
Effective January 1, 2017, but not enforced until Labor Commissioner publishes notice
Under this law, any employee who is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking and takes time off from work for any of reasons given in the amendment cannot be discharged, discriminated, or retaliated against. These rights are now requirements at hire and upon request.

Employees’ Periods of Rest
In a California Supreme Court ruling, employees must be relieved of all duties during rest periods, just like meal periods. For more information about what this means for employers see this analysis.

 

CITY-SPECIFIC ORDINANCES

Santa Monica Sick Leave
Effective January 1, 2017
Employees working in the city of Santa Monica, CA will receive additional sick leave entitlements.

San Francisco Paid Parental Leave
Effective January 1, 2017
Starting this year, employers with 50+ employees must pay 45% of employee income for 6 weeks while on maternity leave. The employee must have worked 180 days with the employer prior to the start of the leave period.

Los Angeles Ban the Box
Effective January 22, 2017
Beginning in January, Los Angeles employers cannot ask about criminal history during the application process (including the interview). For many employers, this will require updating application forms and reviewing interview processes.

San Jose Opportunity to Work
Effective March 13, 2017
This ordinance requires San Jose employers to offer additional work hours to existing qualified part-time employees before hiring new employees, including subcontractors or use of temporary staffing services.

Emeryville Fair Workweek
Effective July 1, 2017
Emeryville is the third city in the U.S. to pass an ordinance like this which sets scheduling requirements for retail firms with 56+ global employees and fast food firms with 56+ global employees with at least 20 in the city of Emeryville. See the full ordinance and its rules here.

 

Colorado

Minimum Wage Updates

Location New Hourly Rate Effective Date
Colorado Statewide $9.30 1/1/17

 

Connecticut

Minimum Wage Updates

Location New Hourly Rate Effective Date
Connecticut Statewide $10.10 1/1/17

 

Expansion of Connecticut’s FMLA
Currently in effect
In addition to the reasons currently listed in the CTFMLA, eligible employees may take leave due to a qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the spouse, son, daughter or parent of the employee is on active duty, or has been notified of an impending call or order to active duty.

 

Delaware

Employment discrimination
Currently in effect
Delaware passed several anti-discrimination employment laws which are now in effect. The first prevents discrimination due to familial responsibilities, stating that employees cannot be discriminated against due to family caregiving responsibilities. The second law decrees that employees cannot be discriminated against due to reproductive health choices. The third prohibits employers from forcing employees to keep their wage a secret.

 

Florida

Minimum Wage Updates

Location New Hourly Rate Effective Date
Florida Statewide $8.10 1/1/17

 

Hawaii

Minimum Wage Updates

Location New Hourly Rate Effective Date
Hawaii Statewide $9.25 1/1/17

 

Illinois

Minimum Wage Updates

Location New Hourly Rate Effective Date
Chicago, IL $11.00 1/1/17

Right to Privacy in the Workplace Act
Effective January 1, 2017
Drawing a line between personal and professional is an increasingly difficult line to see. This act helps clarify for employers where that line rests, at lease when it comes to what the employer can and cannot require. It prohibits employers from requesting personal account login information, including anti-retaliation provision for employees refusing to grant employers access to personal accounts.

Income Withholding and Reporting
Effective January 1, 2017
Several changes were made to Illinois Withholding Income Tax for tax year 2017. Among those changes, all withholding taxpayers will be assigned to pay withholding income tax on a monthly or semiweekly schedule, and they are required to file quarterly returns on Form IL-941. Here is the full list of changes and rules.

 

Iowa

Documentation of Age For Purposes Of Obtaining A Child Labor Permit
Currently in effect
A driver’s permit can be used as proof of age for purposes of obtaining a child labor permit.

 

Kentucky

Minimum Wage Updates

Location New Hourly Rate Effective Date
Louisville, KY $7.25 1/1/17
Lexington, KY $7.25 1/1/17

Minimum Wage Ordinance Overturned
Currently in effect
On October 20, 2016, Kentucky’s Supreme Court struck down Louisville’s minimum wage ordinance. For more info about this, read the full decision.

 

Maine

Minimum Wage Updates

Location New Hourly Rate Effective Date
Portland, ME $10.68 1/1/17
Maine Statewide $9.00 1/1/17

Legalization of marijuana
Effective 30 days after signed by Maine Governor, or 30 days after December 31, 2016
Under this law, employers cannot refuse to employ or penalize a person 21+ based solely on marijuana use, so long as it is outside of the employer’s property.

Severance Pay Protections
This act updates state law to match WARN Act protections and applies to companies that layoff 100+ workers in a 12-month period. It states that employers must provide 60-day notice, and give one week pay per year worked in severance.

Increase In Minimum Salary For Exempt Employees
Effective January 7, 2017
Under this referendum, the minimum wage for exempt employees was increased to 519.24/week.

 

Maryland

Expansion of Equal Pay Act
Currently in effect
Under this provision, equal pay is now prevented from discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

Immigration Status
Currently in effect
Employers are prohibited from threatening or using an employee’s immigration information for extortion.

 

Massachusetts

Minimum Wage Updates

Location New Hourly Rate Effective Date
Massachusetts Statewide $11.00 1/1/17

Job Creation and Workforce Development
Currently in effect
While this law provides many different economic-boosting parts, it amends laws to allow warehouses and delivery centers to be open on Sundays and holidays.

Gender Identity Discrimination Act
Currently in effect
This law expands former protections for ‘transgender’ to include all gender identity, and prevents employers from denying employees access to the restroom that corresponds to the employee’s gender identity.

 

Michigan

Minimum Wage Updates

Location New Hourly Rate Effective Date
Michigan Statewide $8.90 1/1/17

 

Minnesota

Human Rights Act Amendment
Currently in effect
Under this amendment, specific requirements for disability discrimination claims related to architectural barriers were established. Additionally, certain notices in building inspection reports are required.

 

Missouri

Minimum Wage Updates

Location New Hourly Rate Effective Date
Kansas City, MO $9.82 1/1/17
St. Louis, MO $10.00 1/1/17
Missouri Statewide $7.70 1/1/17

Victims of Crime
Currently in effect
Under this legislation, employers are prohibited from discharging or disciplining any witness, victim, or member of a victim’s immediate family for honoring a subpoena to testify in a criminal proceeding, attending a criminal proceeding, or for participating in the preparation of a criminal proceeding.

Ban the Box for State Employers
Currently in effect
State employers are required to remove questions relating to an individual’s criminal history unless a criminal history would render an applicant ineligible for the position.

 

Montana

Minimum Wage Updates

Location New Hourly Rate Effective Date
Montana Statewide $8.15 1/1/17

Discrimination Protection for State Employment Contracts
Currently in effect
Under this anti-discrimination law, state employers and contracts are prohibited from discrimination based on any of the categories: race, color, sex, pregnancy, childbirth or medical conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth, political or religious affiliation or ideas, culture, creed, social origin or condition, genetic information, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, ancestry, age, disability, military service or veteran status, or marital status.

 

Nebraska

Workplace Privacy Act
Currently in effect
This act prohibits Nebraska employers from requiring or requesting an employee or applicant provide or disclose any user name or password or any other related account information in order to gain access to the employee’s or applicant’s social networking site profile or account by way of an electronic communication device

Equal Pay Act Amendment
Currently in effect
Nebraska laws protecting employees from wage discrimination now apply to employers with two or more employees. Previously, the law only applied to employers with fifteen or more employees.

 

New Hampshire

Gender Identity Discrimination Protection
Currently in effect
This order expanded the current anti-discrimination rules for state agencies to include gender identity and gender expression.

 

New Jersey

Minimum Wage Updates

Location New Hourly Rate Effective Date
New Jersey Statewide $8.44 1/1/17

 

New York

Minimum Wage Updates

Location New Hourly Rate Effective Date
NYC, NY $11.00 12/31/16
Nassau, NY $10.00 12/31/16
Suffolk, NY $10.00 12/31/16
Westchester Counties, NY $10.00 12/31/16
New York Statewide $9.70 12/31/16

New Regulations for Methods Of Paying Wages,
Effective March 7, 2017
Starting in March, employers cannot use payroll cards unless there is local access to one or more ATMs that offer withdrawals at no cost to the employee, and there is at least one method to withdraw up to the total amount of wages for each pay period or balance remaining on the payroll debit card without the employee incurring a fee.

NYDHR Regulations/Protections for Transgender Employees
Currently in effect
This law clarified how gender identity discrimination may constitute either sex or disability discrimination under the Human Rights Law and establish protections for transgender employees.

Increased Salary For White Collar Exempt Workers
Effective December 31, 2016
Large employers (those with eleven or more employees) in New York City:

  • $825 per week effective December 31, 2016
  • $975 per week effective December 31, 2017

Small employers (those with ten or fewer employees) in New York City:

  • $787.50 per week effective December 31, 2016
  • $900 per week effective December 31, 2017

Employers in Long Island and Westchester:

  • $750 per week effective December 31, 2016
  • $825 per week effective December 31, 2017

Employers in the remainder of New York State (outside of New York City, Long Island, and Westchester):

  • $727.50 per week effective December 31, 2016
  • $780 per week effective December 31, 2017

For the full list of exemptions, see this amended Minimum Wage Order.

 

North Carolina

Right to Sue for Wrongful Discharge
Currently in effect
This law restored the right to sue for wrongful termination is state courts but limits the statute of limitations from three years to one.

 

Ohio

Minimum Wage Updates

Location New Hourly Rate Effective Date
Ohio Statewide $8.15 1/1/17

Sealed Criminal Records Restriction
Effective November 1, 2016
Employers, educational institutions, state and local government agencies, officials, and employees may not, in any application or interview or otherwise, require an applicant to disclose any information contained in sealed records.

Cities are Prohibited from Establishing Their Own Minimum Wages
Effective March 21, 2017
Among the many parts of this law is the restriction on cities from establishing minimum wage rates different from the rate required by state law.

 

Oregon

Minimum Wage Updates

Location New Hourly Rate Effective Date
Oregon – Portland Urban Boundary $11.25 1/1/17
Oregon – Non-urban $10.00 1/1/17
Oregon Statewide $10.25 1/1/17

Portland Ban the Box
Currently in effect
All Portland employers may not gather, obtain, or use an applicant’s criminal history before making a conditional offer of employment.

 

Pennsylvania

Veterans’ Preference Employment Policy
Effective January 1, 2017
Voluntary policy for hiring, promoting, or retaining a veteran, a spouse of a disabled veteran, or a surviving spouse over another qualified applicant or employee.

Philadelphia – Unlawful Credit Screening Practices in Employment
Currently in effect
Under this legislation, employers are prohibited from using credit information in employment decisions, including any connection with hiring, discharge, tenure, promotion, discipline or consideration of any other term, condition or privilege of employment with respect to such employee or applicant.

Portland Ban the Box
Effective 120 days from Mayor’s signature
This ordinance prohibits employers from inquiring about salary history in the hiring process.

 

Rhode Island

Prohibits Unauthorized Deductions from Wages
Currently in effect
Employers are prohibited from making unauthorized deductions from employee wages. Employers must have an employee’s written or electronic consent.

Recovery Of Unpaid Wages
Currently in effect
Employees are given several new avenues to collect unpaid wages from nonpaying employers.

 

South Carolina

New Income Withholding and Reporting
Effective January 31, 2017
The official announcement and tables available here.

 

South Dakota

Minimum Wage Updates

Location New Hourly Rate Effective Date
South Dakota Statewide $8.65 1/1/17

Wage Garnishment Restrictions
Currently in effect
This law revised provisions related to garnishment of debts and property, with specific updates to employee wage garnishments which with must be lesser of:

  • 20 percent of disposable earnings for that week, or
  • The amount by which your weekly disposable earnings exceed 40 times the federal hourly minimum wage, less $25 per week for each dependent family member who resides with you

For more info about this law, read the full details.

 

Texas

Austin Fair Chance Hiring Ordinance
Currently in effect
Under this law, Austin employers are restricted in their use of criminal background information for hiring.

 

Utah

Post-Employment Restrictions Act
Currently in effect
Limits post-employment restrictive agreements for longer than 1 year, but excludes reasonable severance agreements.

 

Vermont

Minimum Wage Updates

Location New Hourly Rate Effective Date
Vermont Statewide $10.00 1/1/17

Vermont Sick Leave
Effective January 1, 2017
Vermont employees will be able to accrue and use up to 24 hours of paid sick leave annually. Employers with 6 or fewer employees will need to comply by 1/1/2018.

 

Virginia

Wage Theft Policy and Requesting Employment Records
Currently in effect
Employers must provide (upon request) all records required under federal or state law, including name, hourly rate, hours worked, wages due, additions or deductions per pay period and reasons, and pay period and pay date.

 

Washington

Minimum Wage Updates

Location New Hourly Rate Effective Date
Seattle, WA $15.00 1/1/17
SeaTac, WA $15.35 1/1/17
Tacoma, WA $11.15 1/1/17
Washington Statewide $11.00 1/1/17

Seattle Secure Scheduling Ordinance
Effective July 1, 2017
Seattle retail and food service establishments with 500+ employees worldwide and full-service restaurants with 500 or more employees and 40 or more locations must give a 14-day advance schedule, reporting time pay, estimated hours provided at hire, 1.5x pay for shifts with less than 10 hours between them, allow staff access to additional hours before hiring new staff, and are given on-call pay requirements. See specific regulations here.

Spokane Sick Leave
Effective January 1, 2017
Employees working in the city of Spokane, WA are eligible to accrue and use paid sick leave.

 

Can’t find what you’re looking for or have a specific question? Let us know in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

 

5 Interview Do’s (and Don’ts) to Keep Your Company from Legal Woes

shady-interview

There are a lot of rules to protect employees. A whole lot!

In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor enforces more than 180 laws covering everything from wages to worker’s compensation and everything in between. And those are just the federal ones.

But what about before an employee signs an offer letter?

Some of the most forgotten legal protections for employees begin well before their hire date. Any candidate that participates in your company’s recruitment process has anti-discrimination rights guaranteed under both state and federal law.

How do you know if your recruitment process is abiding by these laws? Here are a few things you should and shouldn’t do during an interview.
 

Avoid these interview gaffes

1. Ask about protected characteristics
That means, race, color, national origin, age, gender (including pregnancy and sexual orientation), physical ability, religion, and marital status.

While most employers already know these questions are off-limits, be careful of indirect questions with the same results. These usually sound like these:

  • What year did you graduate high school?
  • Do you have any kids?
  • What’s your home life like?

2. Ask about arrests
Many cities and states, including California, have passed legislation that limits when an employer can ask about criminal background history and what they can ask about.

Arrests that do not result in convictions should not disqualify a candidate, and convictions that do not relate to the job at hand should be considered carefully.
 

3. Discuss drug or alcohol use
It’s tempting for managers to ask about drug and alcohol use. But you’ll want to stay away from asking if a candidate used illegal drugs in the past. However, you can ask if that candidate currently uses any illegal drugs. Walk this line carefully, though.
 

4. Ask about politics, groups, or social organizations, unless relevant to the position
Instead, ask about specific professional associations, if relevant. Avoid discussing the candidate’s involvement in church, parent-teacher associations, or political affiliations.
 

5. Wing it!
While some interviews will need to be less scripted, you should be thinking out your questions and the requirements of the position thoroughly before the interview. Taking time to organize will help keep you objective and fair.
 

What to do instead

1. Keep questions consistent between candidates (per position)
Core questions related to the position itself shouldn’t change much from interview to interview. Of course, follow-up questions can vary and will be more specific to each candidate’s ability to perform the job.

To help keep questions consistent it’s a good idea to agree to a list of questions ahead of time and distribute them to anyone participating in the interview process.
 

2. Link your decisions to objective criteria wherever possible
First impressions are subjective, which is part of why interviews are difficult.

When considering your candidate, try to get beyond your initial reactions and really understand why you think the candidate may not fit. If the candidate’s experience doesn’t mesh with your company culture, which aspect of your culture, specifically?
 

3. Take detailed notes
If you’re ever in a situation where a candidate claims they were not hired due to a discriminatory reason, having detailed notes of why you made your decision will be crucial. Remember, the burden is on the employer to disprove this allegation, and if your only answer is “they just were not a good fit,” you won’t get very far.

On the flipside, having detailed notes about what you do like about a candidate can be crucial for deciding between two (or more) qualified candidates. Relying on memory alone when it’s a close call opens the door for subjectivity and bias.
 

4. Identify the essential functions and requirements of the position BEFORE the interview
Have you ever been in an interview where the recruiter speaks in vague generalities about the position? Or interviewed for a job that didn’t have a description at all?

Why is this a problem? An employee’s performance is tied to job expectations. Without clearly defined job requirements set from the beginning, there’s little accountability or direction for potential candidates. Bad for the company. Bad for the employee.
 

5. Have specific intent for each question asked
These last two points go hand in hand. Take some time to really think about what this position actually requires. What skills, education, and experience are you looking for, and why?
 

While the interview portion of the recruitment process is all about narrowing down your selections and ultimately disqualifying certain candidates, employers should take extra care to ensure their decisions are objective and consistent with job necessity.

Have questions about job interviews? Ask in the comments below and we’ll find an answer.