State Law Round-Up: Minimum Wage Hikes (MD, NM, CA); Kentucky Pregnant Workers Act; New Jersey Employee Rights; New York Voting Leave; Salary History Bans (OH, NM) (US)
Minimum Wage Updates
On March 28, 2019, Maryland’s legislators voted to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15.00 per hour by January 1, 2025, for employers with 15 or more employees and July 1, 2026, for employers with 14 or fewer employees. The current minimum wage in Maryland is $10.10 per hour, but under the new law it will increase to $11.00 per hour on January 1, 2020, for all employers. The minimum wage will then increase for large employers by $0.75 per year every January 1 until 2025 and for small employers by $0.60 per year every January 1 until 2026.
In addition, on April 1, 2019, New Mexico’s governor signed a law that will raise the state’s minimum wage to $12.00 by 2023 for covered non-exempt employees. The current minimum wage in New Mexico is $7.50 an hour. Under the new law, the state’s minimum wage will increase occurring every January 1 until 2023 as follows: up to $9.00 an hour in 2020, $10.50 an hour in 2021, $11.50 an hour in 2022, and $12.00 an hour in 2023.
Further, the City Council of the city of Daly City, California voted to increase its minimum wage to $15.00 per hour by January 1, 2021. The current minimum wage in Daly City is $12.00. The minimum wage will increase to $13.75 per hour on January 1, 2020, and $15.00 per hour on January 1, 2021.
Kentucky Pregnant Workers Act
On April 9, 2019, Kentucky’s governor signed the Pregnant Workers Act, requiring covered employers to also provide reasonable accommodations to employees for pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions, unless the employer shows the accommodation would pose an undue hardship. This is an expansion of the Kentucky Civil Rights Act, which currently prohibits covered employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.
Employers are required to post a written notice of employees’ rights at their worksites and also provide written notice to new employees upon hire and to all existing employees within 30 days after the effective date. The Act becomes effective on June 27, 2019, and thus written notice must be provided to all existing employees no later than July 27, 2019.
New Jersey Bans Employers from Including Mandatory Nondisclosure Provisions in Contracts or Settlements; Enacts Retirement Savings System
New Jersey has been added to the growing list of states legislating contractual limitations upon an employer’s right to enter into certain nondisclosure agreements (NDAs). Senate Bill 121, effective immediately, prohibits nondisclosure clauses in settlement agreements relating to workplace discrimination, retaliation or harassment. The law renders unenforceable any provision in an employment contract that waives “any substantive or procedural right or remedy relating to a claim of discrimination, retaliation or harassment.” The law also makes any provision in an employment contract or settlement agreement unenforceable against a current or former employee if it has the “purpose or effect of concealing the details relating to a claim of discrimination, retaliation, or harassment” as against public policy. These limits apply to new or renewed agreements (and modifications of previous agreements) executed on or after the law’s effective date of March 18, 2019.
Continuing the momentum, New Jersey is the latest state to provide private-sector employees with a way to save money for retirement when their employers don’t offer such benefits. The governor signed the New Jersey Secure Choice Savings Program on March 28, 2019. The program requires employers with at least 25 employees to take part in a retirement savings program funded through payroll deductions that gives employees the opportunity to invest in an Individual Retirement Account administered by the state. While employees will be automatically enrolled at a 3% contribution rate, they can opt out of the plan or change the rate, if they choose.
New York Voting Leave
On April 1, 2019, New York’s governor announced an amendment to New York Election Law that will allow employees to request up to three hours of paid time off to vote, regardless of their schedule, to enable the employee to vote in any public election. Previously, the maximum time-off allotment was only two hours, and time off was limited to employees who did not have four consecutive hours before or after their shift in which to vote.
Employees must provide at least two working days’ notice of the need for leave. Employers may decide whether the time off can be taken at the beginning or end of the employee’s shift.
Importantly, employers must also post notice of the provisions of the New York Election Law in conspicuous locations in the workplace for at least 10 working days before every election until the close of the polls. This amendment takes effect immediately, so New York employers should promptly review and update their voting leave policies and ensure they comply with the new posting requirements.
Salary History Bans
Effective March 13, 2020, private employers with 15 or more employees in Cincinnati, Ohio will be prohibited from asking applicants for positions in Cincinnati about their salary history or current earnings. On March 13, 2019, the City Council passed an ordinance barring employers from asking applicants about their past or current salary, screening applicants based on wages or benefits, relying on salary history in both hiring decisions or in determining compensation, or refusing to hire or otherwise retaliate against an applicant who refused to provide his or her salary history to the employer.
Employers may ask whether applicants have expectations regarding salary, benefits, and other compensation. Employers are also required, following a conditional offer of employment and upon request of the applicant, to provide the pay scale for the position.
Additionally, on April 3, 2019, New Mexico’s governor signed into law the Criminal Offender Employment Act. This law prohibits private employers in New Mexico from inquiring about an applicant’s history of arrest or conviction on an initial employment application. Employers may take into consideration an applicant’s conviction after review of the applicant’s application and upon discussion of employment with the applicant. The law also allows employers to inform applicants at the outset if a certain criminal history could disqualify an applicant from employment in particular positions with the employer. The Act takes effect beginning July 1, 2019.
Employers in both Cincinnati and New Mexico should review and update their hiring practices and job applications to comply with these new laws.