Stricter workplace smoking law taking effect in California

by Jim Brown
Sedgwick LLP

A new law expanding smoking restrictions in California workplaces is set to take effect on January 1.

State law previously restricted smoking in places of employment based on “enclosed space” areas. In addition to requiring signage, California Labor Code Section 6404.5 provided a list of exceptions or exemptions from the definition of “place of employment.”

The new law, Assembly Bill 7, amends Labor Code Section 6404.5 to, among other things, eliminate the specified exemptions from “place of employment” for hotel lobby and bar areas, taverns, banquet rooms, warehouse facilities, and employee break rooms. Before Assembly Bill 7, local jurisdictions could enact rules prohibiting smoking in those areas, but no statewide law required such a ban.

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Colorado voters OK minimum wage hikes

by Mark Wiletsky

On November 8, Colorado voters decided to raise the state’s minimum wage to $12 per hour over the next four years. By about a 54-46 margin, voters passed Amendment 70, which changes the Colorado Constitution to gradually raise the minimum wage.

Gradual increases in minimum wage

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States approve minimum wage, paid leave ballot questions

November 10, 2016 - by: Kate McGovern Tornone 0 COMMENTS

States with employment-related ballot questions mostly approved them during the November 8 election, and employers have little lead time before many measures will be implemented.

All told, 14 states have new provisions with which companies must comply, some as early as January 1, 2017.

Minimum wage

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Arizona voters approve increased minimum wage, paid sick leave

by Dinita L. James
Gonzalez Law, LLC

On November 8, nearly 60% of Arizona voters cast ballots in favor of increasing the state’s minimum wage and providing mandatory paid sick leave. The measure ensures that employers will have to pay at least $10 per hour beginning January 1, 2017. Thereafter, the minimum wage will increase by 50 cents each year until it reaches $12 per hour in 2020.

Based on unofficial returns, Proposition 206, the Healthy Working Families Initiative, passed by healthy margins in 14 of Arizona’s 15 counties, with only Graham County in the southeast corner of the state voting against it.

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Voters reject changes to South Dakota’s right-to-work law

by Jennifer Suich Frank

On November 8, South Dakota voters rejected Initiated Measure (IM) 23, which would have allowed unions to charge nonmembers reduced “fair share” dues for services like collective bargaining. An overwhelming 79 percent of South Dakotans voted against the measure.

A right-to-work law means employees have the right to work without being required to join a union. Right-to-work laws are aimed at preventing employers and labor unions from excluding nonunion employees or requiring all employees to pay a fee to a union regardless of whether they belong to the union. In essence, IM 23 would have allowed unions to charge nonmembers fees to cover expenses for work from which nonmember employees would purportedly benefit.

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Transgender bathroom case makes it to Supreme Court

by Rachael L. Loughlin

On October 28, 2016, the Supreme Court granted the request of the School Board of Gloucester County to consider whether the Court should overturn a decision of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Fourth Circuit ordered the School Board to allow Gavin Grimm, who was born female but identifies as male, to use the boys’ restroom during his senior year of high school.

By now, most HR professionals are aware of the ongoing debate as to what restrooms should be available to transgender individuals. Though individual cases are popping up all over the country, none has captured public attention like the case of transgender Gloucester High School student, Gavin Grimm. Grimm is being represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and his lawsuit contends that the School Board’s restroom policy requiring students to use the restroom matching their physical gender, is discriminatory and violates Title IX of the federal education code, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.

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Nevada Supreme Court clarifies connection between healthcare coverage, minimum wage

by Deanna L. Forbush

Nevada is unique in so many ways. For instance, unlike other states, Nevada has a constitutional provision that authorizes a two-tiered minimum wage. It’s called the Minimum Wage Amendment (MWA). Under the MWA, if an employer provides qualifying health benefits, a minimum-wage employee may be paid $1 per hour less than the upper-tier minimum wage. But what does “provide” mean? Must the employer actually enroll an employee in a qualifying health benefit plan? Or is it sufficient if the employer only “offers” a qualifying plan? That’s a significant distinction, with major economic ramifications for Nevada employers whose payrolls include minimum-wage employees.

In a unanimous opinion issued October 27, the full Nevada Supreme Court looked at the plain language of the MWA to conclude that “provide” means “offer,” thereby partially overruling a lower court’s finding that an employee must actually “enroll” in an employer’s health benefit plan before the employer is entitled to pay the lower-tier minimum wage.

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Texas federal court fast-tracks suit challenging DOL’s overtime rule

October 20, 2016 - by: Kate McGovern Tornone 0 COMMENTS

Update: A ruling on the November 16 injunction hearing is expected on November 22. We will provide coverage on the ruling once it is issued.

A federal district court has agreed to fast-track a lawsuit challenging the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) new overtime regulation. The court has scheduled oral arguments for November 16, just two weeks ahead of the rule’s December 1 effective date.

The rule will more than double the salary threshold for employees. Employees earning less than $913 per week ($47,476 annually) will have to be classified as nonexempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act’s (FLSA) overtime requirements, regardless of whether they meet any of the duties tests.

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Maryland equal pay law will take effect October 1

by Kevin C. McCormick

Maryland’s new Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, which takes effect on October 1, will prohibit employers from providing less than favorable employment opportunities to or discriminating against employees by paying different rates based on their sex or gender identity.

Under the new law, which was signed by Governor Lawrence Hogan in May, employers will be prohibited from relying on sex or gender identity to assign or direct employees into less favorable career tracks or positions. Employers also will be prohibited from failing to provide information about promotions or advancement in the full range of careers or career tracks offered, and they will not be able to limit or deprive employees of employment opportunities that would otherwise be available to them.

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Massachusetts adds veteran status as a protected class

by Susan G. Fentin

Now that a new Massachusetts law adding veteran status as a protected class under the state’s antidiscrimination law is in effect, employers need to take a look at their employee handbook provisions related to veterans.    Proud saluting male army soldier on american flag background

At the end of the last legislative session, the Massachusetts Legislature passed An Act Relative to Housing Operations, Military Service and Enrichment. The main purpose of the law, which took effect in July, is to give veterans who have disabilities that are 100 percent related to their military service greater access to housing. But the statute contains two provisions that may require employers to revise their handbooks.

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