Similar bills are being considered by state legislatures in California, Georgia, Connecticut, Indiana, Maryland, Kentucky, Missouri, New Jersey, Nebraska, New York, New Mexico, Ohio, Texas, Pennsylvania and Vermont. Check back frequently for the latest updates on those bills.
By contrast, New Jersey is currently considering a law that would allow employers to share an employee’s or former employee’s credit history, work evaluations and other information in the personnel file with prospective employers or government agencies.
In most of these states, the limits to an employer’s use of credit checks apply to all employment decisions. However, the Florida and Michigan bills would only restrict use of credit history in hiring. An employer could still use a credit report for employment decisions regarding current employees.
California courts continue to limit employers’ use of arbitration agreements. This time, the Fourth Appellate District Court has determined that the new limits on arbitration agreements with employees also apply to independent contractors.
A previous California Supreme Court ruling in Armendariz v. Foundation Health Psychcare established that an arbitration agreement with an employee is only enforceable if it is mutual and does not require employees to waive rights they have under state law. Previously, many employers believed waiver of rights was the main purpose of an arbitration agreement.
The Supreme Court ruled that the employer’s “take it or leave it” attitude toward the items in the arbitration agreement made it invalid. Employees must be permitted to negotiate items in the arbitration agreement individually, without it affecting the job offer.
In order to be enforceable, a California arbitration agreement must provide for :
· A neutral arbitrator (more…)
The Maryland Healthy Retail Employee Act is the state’s first law requiring meal and rest breaks for workers in certain occupations. The law went into effect on March 1, 2011 and covers retail stores with 50 or more workers. It does not cover restaurants or wholesale dealers. The law also excludes mail-order or Internet sales businesses when more than 50% of sales occur without the customer physically present in the store.
The law also requires shorter 15-minute breaks under some conditions. A Maryland retail employee who works a shift of 4 to 6 hours is entitled to a non-working break of at least 15 minutes, but is not entitled to a 30-minute break.
An employee who works 8 or more hours must be given the 30-minute break plus a non-working break of 15 minutes for every four additional consecutive hours. For example, an employee who works 16 consecutive hours must be given the 30-minute break, plus two 15-minute non-working breaks.
Under the federal FLSA, employees are entitled to payment for any break that is less than 20 minutes, so the 15-minute breaks must be paid.
Corporate employees or office employees who do not work on the sales floor are not included in the total number of employees. A company that had 49 sales clerks and one office manager would not be covered by the law. However, stores that have several locations must count all the employees in the state to determine if they have 50 retail employees.
The new break law is enforced by the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation or DLLR, with fines starting at $300 per employee.
The California legislature is considering several bills that would impact employers, including a minimum wage increase and extension of family leave rights. Another bill would protect employees who smoke medical marijuana.
The California Assembly is considering AB 10, a bill that would increase the state minimum wage from $8.00 to $8.50 per hour. Even more importantly, the bill includes a provision to increase the minimum wage each year based on inflation.
Currently at $8.00 per hour, the California minimum wage is tied with Massachusetts for the seventh highest in the nation, after Washington, Oregon, Connecticut, Illinois, Nevada and Vermont. About a dozen states have annual cost-of-living increases to the minimum wage, including Florida, Arizona and Colorado.
Expanded Family Leave
If passed, the expanded CFRA would permit employees to take time off to care for an adult son or daughter, a mother- or father-in-law, grandparent, sister or brother, grandson or granddaughter, or a domestic partner with a serious health condition.
The Hawaii Civil Union Law, signed by Governor Neil Abercrombie on February 23, 2011 goes into effect on January 1, 2012. It permits same-sex or opposite-sex couples to enter into civil unions. The Hawaii Civil Unions provide many of the same benefits as marriage under state law, although they are not recognized by federal law.
Although specifics on the bill are sketchy, it appears that employers will have to extend the same benefits to civil partners as to spouses of employees in Hawaii.