State Legislatures Passing Laws That Impact The Workplace

Recent months have seen perhaps one of the greatest degrees of activity in state legislatures enacting new laws that impact the workplace. Acting in the absence of Congress, which has not passed substantial new employment legislation in more than a decade, legislatures are granting employees in their states more rights than would exist under analogous federal laws.

Examples of recently-enacted state statutes include the following:

Massachusetts Senate Bill 1059, effective July 1, 2008, mandates triple damages for all violations of the state Wage and Hour Law. Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, employees are only entitled to double damages, and in some cases, may even receive less than that.

Washington’s Legislature has enacted a new statute effective June 12, 2008, that provides all eligible employees with 15 days of leave for each military deployment of the employee’s spouse. The employee may substitute any accrued paid leave for the “default” unpaid leave provided under the statute.

Under Florida’s “Preservation and Protection of the Right to Keep and Bear Arms in Motor Vehicle Act of 2008,” public and private employers will be barred from prohibiting employees from possessing a legally-owned firearm that is kept inside a locked, privately-owned motor vehicle which is parked on an employer’s parking lot.

The District of Columbia City Council enacted an ordinance known as the “Enhanced Professional Security Amendment of 2008,” which mandates both a higher minimum wage and specific benefit levels for security guards working in office buildings in the District. The minimum wage is $11.51 per hour, plus a mandatory $3.16 an hour in fringe benefits.

New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine signed into law a new statute that will allow employees to take up to six weeks of paid family leave per year. The new law, which is effective January 1, 2009, allows the leave to be used for traditional family leave purposes – to care for a seriously ill spouse, domestic partner, parent, or child, or attendant to the birth or adoption of a child. While on leave, employees will receive payments from a state fund to replace two-thirds of their salary, up to a maximum of $524 a week. The benefit will be funded by employee payroll deductions, which are capped at $33 per month.

This article appears in the July 2008 issue