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Prepare Now for July 1 Employment Laws: Minimum Wage, Discrimination, Leave and Marijuana Top the List

Author: XpertHR Editorial Team

As summer approaches, vaccines become more widely available and states lift pandemic-related restrictions, many of us are beginning to think longingly of summer escapes that weren't possible a year ago. Perhaps now we can finally dust off long-delayed vacation plans and schedule well-deserved time away from the workplace or home office.

Yet for HR professionals charged with keeping up with rapidly changing workplace laws, the start of summer also brings a critical and time-sensitive task: reviewing and preparing for employment laws and requirements that take effect on or around July 1. This summer's new developments - more than 50 in total - will affect employers in 24 states and numerous localities.

To help HR teams get their organizations ready to comply, we've summarized the key topic areas covered and provide a list of the developments, organized by jurisdiction. Let's hope that with compliance obligations squared away, July and August time off will be that much more relaxing.

Key Topics

Minimum Wage

Similar to last year, summer 2021 brings numerous minimum wage changes, including statewide minimum wage increases in Nevada and Oregon. At the local level, increases will take effect in Washington, DC; Chicago, Illinois; Montgomery County, Maryland; Minneapolis, Minnesota; St. Paul, Minnesota; and Portland, Oregon. And in California, 10 localities will raise the minimum wage in July.

To help you keep track of these changes, the Minimum Wage Rates by State and Municipality 50-State Chart lists all the new rates taking effect on July 1 as well as current and future minimum wage rates across the US.

Discrimination

State legislatures continue to expand discrimination protections for employees. In New Mexico, employers should take note of a new law that will prohibit discrimination based on a person's hairstyle or cultural and religious headdress. In Virginia, amendments to the Virginia Human Rights Act (VHRA) will broaden protected classes to include workers who belong to the US uniformed forces or reserves, and their dependents. Also under the VHRA, protections for employees with disabilities will expand, and employers will be required to provide reasonable accommodations.

Leaves of Absence

Employers in Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Vermont and Virginia will have new obligations related to employee leave. Kentucky employers will be required to provide the same leave policies and benefits to adoptive parents as they provide to birth parents. In Massachusetts, covered employees and individuals will be able to take paid leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition. And in Virginia, the state's first paid sick leave law will require employers to provide paid sick leave to eligible home health workers, while Iowa and Vermont will roll out expansions to military leave.

The Leave Laws by State and Municipality 50-State Chart provides an overview of these and other leave requirements at the federal, state and local levels.

Recreational and Medical Marijuana

Efforts at the state level to legalize recreational and medicinal use of marijuana and cannabis have met with recent success. Beginning June 29, New Mexico residents may legally possess and use up to two ounces of marijuana. On July 1, Virginia becomes the first southern state in the US to legalize the use of recreational marijuana; arrest and conviction records for certain marijuana-related offenses will be automatically expunged. Connecticut's governor signed legislation in June making possession and use of recreational marijuana legal in the state, effective July 1. And in South Dakota, residents may legally use cannabis for certain medicinal reasons beginning July 1.

In addition to developments discussed above, employers should be aware of a number of other upcoming laws covering topics such as independent contractors, safety training and garnishment of wages.