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Municipal Preemption Laws by State

Authors: Melissa Silver, Marta Moakley and Rena Pirsos, XpertHR Legal Editors

A number of states have enacted laws that prohibit municipalities from adopting ordinances or regulations on a specific area of the law. Specifically, a state government can preempt local and municipal governments from adopting any ordinance expanding an employer's requirements on a certain issue, such as compensation or benefits. Although this practice promotes consistency in administration within a state, a number of preemption laws are being challenged in court.

This chart covers preemption laws that apply to private employers affecting:

  • Compensation and benefits;
  • Distracted driving;
  • Smoke-free/indoor clean air;
  • Discrimination; and
  • "Ban the box" ordinances.

A state that is not known to have a law in this area is marked with N/A.

Issues listed in the "Area of Preemption" column are regulated by state law; as a result, an employer must follow state law for the issue, as local ordinances are prohibited.

Under the Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution, when state law and federal law conflict, federal law displaces, or preempts, state law. However, at times, federal law sets a minimum standard on which states may build (e.g., minimum wage requirements). The US Department of Labor advises that employees and employers follow the law that provides the highest standard of protection to employees and the strictest standard for employers.