As the Times Square ball dropped in New York City to ring in the new year, a host of new employment laws across the US took effect. Some of the key developments include a multitude of state minimum wage increases, a criminal history law affecting private employers, plus paid sick leave requirements.
Minimum Wage Hikes Head the List
While the federal minimum wage remains $7.25 an hour, multistate employers relying on that figure do so at their peril. That’s because 20 states increased their minimum wage requirements on January 1.
Some of these increases are significantly above the federal figure, led by Washington state’s $9.47 requirement. Other notable increases include:
- Oregon at $9.25;
- Connecticut and Vermont at $9.15; and
- Massachusetts and Rhode Island at $9.00.
In all, 29 states now exceed the federal minimum wage. What’s more, employers cannot sleep on some big-city requirements that go further. For instance, by the spring San Francisco will have a $12.25 minimum wage while Seattle’s will increase to $11 for large employers on April 1, and Washington, DC’s will rise to $10.50 on July 1.
So even though President Obama’s efforts to raise the federal minimum wage have stalled in Congress, employers must stay abreast of the rapidly increasing number of state and city requirements.
New Ban the Box Law Affects Private Employers
Effective January 1, most Illinois employers are restricted from asking criminal history questions on job applications. This new law is part of the “ban the box” trend to remove the box on applications that prospective employees are often asked to check off if they have ever been convicted of a crime.
The Illinois law applies to private employers with 15 or more employees and employment agencies. Under the law, an employer may not ask about an applicant’s criminal background until after the employer deems the applicant qualified for the position and selects the person for an interview. If no interview is conducted, the employer may not ask criminal history questions until after making a conditional job offer.
Illinois is the fifth state with a “ban the box” criminal history law applying to most private employers. New Jersey will soon become the sixth with a similar law scheduled to take effect March 1.
And much like the minimum wage trend, cities often can and do go further. In fact, more than 70 US cities and counties have passed varying “ban the box” laws.
Paid Sick Leave Requirements
Paid sick leave is another growing trend employers cannot ignore. On January 1, the notice posting provisions of California’s paid sick leave law took effect. This means any employer with at least one employee who works more than 30 days in a year in the Golden State must post a notice provided by the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE). And, the poster must appear in a “conspicuous place.”
California’s wage notice also was amended to include paid sick leave information. Other provisions of the law, including those allowing eligible employees to begin to accrue paid sick time, will become effective July 1. The law bans employers from discriminating or retaliating against employees who request or use paid sick leave.
Nearly 3,000 miles east, Connecticut amended its paid sick leave law effective New Year’s Day. Under the amended law, an employer may not terminate or transfer an employee to avoid qualifying as a covered employer. Also, employer coverage under Connecticut’s paid sick leave law will be determined annually based on the number of employees on the payroll as of October 1.
Massachusetts will join California and Connecticut on July 1 as the third state to require some form of paid sick leave to eligible employees, but a host of cities have enacted paid sick leave laws and others could do so soon.
What 2015 employment law concerns you the most?