State of the States: Paid Leave, Pay Equity Measures Advance in Busy Fall Legislative Season

October 06, 2017

More than 50 labor and employment bills were considered in various state legislatures in September, with a number reaching governors' desks, including two pay equity bills in California.  Elsewhere paid sick leave measures gathered momentum while two state right-to-work laws saw decisive victories in state courtrooms.  Read more in the most recent Littler State of the States report.

Paid Sick Leave (Rhode Island, California, and Portland, Maine)  Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo signed the Healthy and Safe Families and Workplaces Act, mandating employers grant employees one hour of sick leave per 35 worked.  Up to 24 hours may be accrued in 2018, 32 in 2019, and 40 thereafter.  The law goes into effect in July 2018.  In California, a bill that would give certain employees 12 weeks of unpaid leave for reasons of child bonding passed both legislative chambers.  However, California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed similar legislation in 2016, and may do so again.  Portland, Maine, is considering an ordinance that would require employers to grant employees one hour of sick leave for every 30 worked for up to 48 hours accrued.  If enacted, the measure would take effect on July 1, 2018.

Pay Equity (California and Westchester County, New York)  Both houses of the California Legislature have passed a bill that would mandate employers with over 500 employees in California to file a report with the California Secretary of State detailing the mean and median wages of male and female employees who are exempt administrative, executive, or professional employees, or board members.  If signed by Governor Brown, the measure would go into effect on July 1, 2019.  Also sitting on Governor Brown's desk is a second bill that would limit an employer's ability to ask about or rely on an applicant's salary history when making employment decisions and require employers to provide, upon request, a position's pay scale information.  If signed, this measure would become operative on January 1, 2018.  Winchester County, New York, meanwhile, is considering a bill that would prevent employers from relying on salary history information in setting wages unless the information is voluntarily offered by a candidate "to support a wage higher than the wage offered by the employer."  It would also prohibit a potential employer's request for such information from an applicant's current or previous employer except in narrowly-defined circumstances.

Predictive Scheduling (Massachusetts)  A bill was introduced in the Massachusetts Legislature that would require employers to post a written notice of the seven-day schedule in a conspicuous location for each employee at least seven days prior to the first day of that work schedule.  Under the bill, employers that change the schedule in order to reduce or eliminate hours must compensate affected employees with "predictability pay," the amount of which depends on the type of change to the schedule and the advance notice given.

Background Checks (California, Rhode Island)  California Governor Brown is expected to sign a "ban-the-box" bill that would generally prohibit employers from asking questions about an applicant's conviction history before a conditional offer of employment is made.  The bill would also limit consideration of arrests that did not result in convictions, diversion program participation and/or convictions that were sealed, dismissed, expunged, or eradicated, and would prescribe steps that must be taken if an employer intends to deny employment solely or partly because of conviction history.  In Rhode Island, however, a bill has been introduced that would loosen existing ban-the-box restrictions on employers.  Specifically, the bill would permit an employer to include on an application a question about whether an applicant has ever been convicted of any offense that would require mandatory or presumptive disqualification under federal or state law or regulation.

Right-to-Work (West Virginia, Wisconsin)  The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals lifted a preliminary injunction imposed by a lower court that had blocked implementation of the state's new right-to-work law.  The Wisconsin Court of Appeals reached the same conclusion in a similar dispute over that state's right-to-work law, enacted in 2015.

Joint Employer (California)  Governor Brown's already crowded desk also includes a measure that would hold contractors in certain construction contracts entered on or after January 1, 2018 liable for unpaid wages, benefits, or contributions a subcontractor owes for labor connected to the contract.  It would require subcontractors to provide required payroll records upon a direct contractor's request.  Governor Brown has not yet indicated whether he will sign the bill into law.