State of the States: Plethora of Issues Under Consideration with Backlash Against Local Actions in Some States

April 06, 2018

Banning after hour emails, sexual harassment issues, gender pay equity, and a variety of other workplace related bills that were introduced earlier in the year are now moving through state legislatures, while two states moved to restrict the ability of localities to pass their own salary history bans.  Read more in the latest Workplace Policy Institute's State of the States report.

Banning After Hour Emails (New York City)  Following similar measures in Europe, the New York City Council is considering a bill that would prohibit employers with 10 or more employees from requiring an employee "to access work-related electronic communications outside of such employee's usual work hours, not including overtime, except in cases of emergency."  The bill would also require employers to adopt a written policy and provide a written notice to new and existing employees of the "right to disconnect" and prohibit retaliation and interference with employees exercising their right.
Push Back on Pay History Bans  Michigan and Wisconsin became the first states to pass legislation prohibiting localities and jurisdictions from banning pay history inquiries.  The moves go against the tide of salary history bans that have been passed in cities and states across the country.
Sexual Harassment Arbitration (New York State, Washington)  Washington State enacted a package of bills that: 1) prohibits an employer from requiring an employee, as a condition of employment, to sign a nondisclosure agreement or other document that prevents the employee from disclosing sexual harassment or sexual assault; 2) voids employment contracts or agreements that require an employee to waive the right to publicly pursue a state or federal discrimination claim; 3) voids agreements requiring an employee to resolve claims of discrimination in a dispute resolution process that is confidential; and 4) creates a stakeholder working group to develop model policies for preventing workplace sexual harassment.  Meanwhile, New York's new state budget requires companies making bids on state contracts to certify that their employment contracts do not have a mandatory arbitration clause.

Gender Pay Equity and Paid Sick Leave (New Jersey, Washington)  Washington State has amended its equal pay law to prohibit pay secrecy policies, pay differentials based on gender between those "similarly employed," and retaliation against employees who file complaints, discuss wages, or seek advancement opportunities.  New Jersey's legislature has passed a bill which would be among the strongest in the nation.  It prohibits unequal pay for "substantially similar work" and allows employees who have been discriminated against to receive up to six years of back pay.  The NJ state assembly has also passed legislation that would guarantee 40 hours of paid leave annually to nearly every worker.

Ban on Asking About Pot Convictions (San Francisco)  Employers in San Francisco must now wait until after making a job offer to ask workers and job applicants about convictions for growing or using marijuana.  The measure builds on the city's existing "fair chance" law that bars criminal inquiries for convictions for decriminalized behavior.  The new ordinance carries increasing penalties ($200 to $2,000) and also gives employees and applicants the right to sue over violations.