Several New State and Local Laws That HR Needs to Know

The new year regularly brings many gifts to HR and 2018 is no exception.  Generally these gifts come in the form of increased minimum wage laws, new paid time off and benefit laws, energized movements to sue employers, and even the occasional complete revamping of the group healthcare structure.  The following are some notable new or pending laws.

PAID SICK LEAVES IN NEW YORK, MARYLAND AND ST. PAUL

New York's unique Paid Family Leave law took effect January 1.  Although benefits under the law will escalate until fully implemented in 2021, the law protects employees' time off for family care, military deployment, and bonding with newborns or adopted/foster children.  It also creates an insurance plan for reimbursing employees who take otherwise unpaid time off under the law.  Initially employers will need to provide 8 weeks leave and wage reimbursement, but by 2021 it will increase to 12 weeks and reimbursement of 67% of either the employee's average weekly wage or the state's average weekly wage. 

St. Paul's sick and safety ordinance recently became effective and now requires all employers to provide paid time off for sickness and safety for the employee or an immediate family member of the employee.  Employees earn the paid time off at a rate of 1 hour for every 30 hours worked and must be allowed to carry some over to the next measurement year.     

In February, Maryland will join several states and municipalities in requiring that larger employers (15 or more workers) provide employees with paid time off.  As with similar laws in California, Arizona, Connecticut and many major cities, Maryland allows employees to take the earned time off for their personal, or an immediate family member's, sickness or safety related reasons.  Smaller employers must provide the time off as well, but it can be unpaid. 

PREGNANCY FAIRNESS ACT IN MASSACHUSETTS

Beginning April 1, Massachusetts will require that employers provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant women to help them to deal with the effects of their pregnancy.  Such accommodations may include: more frequent or longer paid or unpaid breaks; time off to recover from childbirth with or without pay; acquisition or modification of equipment or seating; temporary transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous position; job restructuring; light duty; private non-bathroom space for expressing breast milk; assistance with manual labor; and modified work schedules. 

There has been a debate for several years whether federal law requires employers to accommodate pregnant women.  Most courts have found that employers do not need to provide accommodations, unless the employee is experiencing complications related to the pregnancy that make her disabled under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  This new Massachusetts law, and others like it that have been proposed in many states as well as at the federal level, seek to require employers to address workplace accommodations for pregnant employees much in the same way that they are currently required to address the needs of disabled employees.    

NEW PROPOSED OVERTIME LAW FOR PENNSYLVANIA WORKERS

While the federal white-collar salary level (to claim the white-collar overtime exemption) remains at $455/week, Pennsylvania unveiled a plan to incrementally increase the salary level from its current $455/week to $766/week by 2021.  Many states, including Pennsylvania, have their own minimum wage and overtime laws, though most mirror, or are very similar to, the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  Where the state and the federal wage and hour laws differ employers need to provide employees with the more favorable of the benefits.  Here, if Pennsylvania moves forward with its plan, employers would need to pay overtime benefits to employees, unless they are paid a salary of at least $766/week, by 2021.  Notably, this plan is essentially the same one proposed by the Obama administration's Department of Labor, which was ultimately tabled and did not take effect.   

 
 
Thompson Coe’s Tips of the Week are not intended as a solicitation, do not constitute legal advice and do not establish an attorney-client relationship.