Navigating Company Policies for 2021
Each year, new state legislation is passed or changed, emphasizing the importance of companies becoming and remaining compliant in a highly regulated work environment. With these ever-changing and increasing state employment and labor law updates, it is growing more and more of a challenge for employers of multi-state companies to stay on top of company policies.
Although it’s important to stay current with federal laws for those essential minimum requirements, each state and municipality is well within its authority to create more robust laws. Business owners need to be aware, up-to-date, and stay compliant with federal, state, and city laws and understand that the risk of failing to do so could have damaging and costly consequences.
Listed below are some of the more common laws that vary by state or city. Keep in mind that if you have employees in multiple states, some of these laws apply regardless of the number of employees working in a particular country. It is critical to keep your employee handbook and all relevant company policies up-to-date with these regulations.
Paid Sick Leave Policies
A growing number of paid sick time laws have passed in cities and states around the country with continuing momentum on an issue that has seen increasing support. Each state law has different rules about who is covered, the rate at which employees accrue paid leave, and the waiting periods before using paid sick leave. Many local jurisdictions have their paid-sick-leave laws that offer more generous benefits than the state law or are in locations without a statewide law. Also, Executive Order 13706 requires federal contractors and subcontractors to provide paid sick leave, regardless of where they are based.
Paid sick leave laws often mandate other guidelines regarding acceptable reasons for employers’ leave and record-keeping duties. A required minimum of 40 hours a year has become a common practice. These laws need to be reviewed against your company’s current sick or PTO policies to ensure they are compliant with your state or city laws. Here’s a breakdown of paid sick leave laws by state:
- States with state paid sick leave laws – Statewide: AZ, CA, CT, MA, MI, NJ, OR, RI, VT, and District of Columbia.
- States with both state and local paid sick laws – Statewide: CA, MD, and Berkeley, CA; Emeryville, CA; Long Beach, CA; Los Angeles, CA; Oakland, CA; San Diego, CA; San Francisco, CA; Santa Monica, CA; Montgomery County, IL; Seattle, WA; Tacoma, WA.
- States with only local city or county paid sick laws – Philadelphia, PA, Pittsburgh, PA (valid 3/15/2020); Cook County, IL; Chicago, IL; Duluth, MN; Minneapolis, MN; St. Paul, MN; West Chester County, NY; New York City, NY; Dallas, TX.
Family Leave Policies
All private employers with 50 or more employees (within a 75-mile radius) and all public agencies must comply with the Federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Some states are filling these gaps by providing job-protected leave too many employees left out of the FMLA. Some states have extended leave to employees of small businesses with fewer than 50 employees. Other countries have reduced the duration and hours worked requirements in their state leave laws, while others have done away with these requirements completely. Examples of the state-specific family leave New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA), California Family Rights Act (CFRA), Vermont Parental and Family Leave Act (PFLA), Oregon Family Leave Act (OFLA), and more.
Crime Victims, Domestic and Sexual Violence Leaves
Several states have passed laws that provide crime victims, including domestic violence and victims of sexual assault and stalking, time off from work to address the violence in their lives and protection from employment discrimination related to the violence. The details of each state’s leave laws and protections can vary significantly.
Meal Breaks and Rest Periods
Under federal law, not required are meal breaks and rest periods except for youth; however, regulations on what is considered compensable and non-compensable time. When employers offer short breaks (5 – 20 minutes), this is deemed compensable work hours. On the other hand, meal periods (which, if provided, must be at least 30 minutes in duration) serve a different purpose and are not considered work time and are not compensable. However, if work is performed during the meal period, it is. There are regulations regarding the length of a break or meal period and when the break should be taken at the state level. For example, in some states, there is a paid 10-minute break required for every 4 hours worked or a 30-minute meal period for every five consecutive hours of work. Please note that these laws can also vary by other factors such as occupation type, collective bargaining agreements, population, etc. Click here for State Meal Period Laws and Paid Rest Period Requirements.
Legalized Marijuana Use
This is becoming an increasingly hot topic for employers, and we will continue to see more states continue to legalize marijuana. Although marijuana use remains illegal at the federal level, many states have legalized it for medical use (33 states), and several states have legalized it for recreational use (11 states). In many states that have legalized recreational marijuana, the laws allow employers to continue to maintain zero-tolerance drug policies based on federal law. However, several states are silent about whether employers may limit or regulate an employee’s use of marijuana outside the workplace. This complex subject is changing and will require employers to review and update drug and alcohol policies.
The federal minimum wage for non-exempt employees is $7.25 per hour, as contained in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). However, many states have their minimum wage laws, and some wages may vary by county or city. Several states have an approved minimum rate increase by year, so make sure you stay on top of annual increases. Click here for current State Minimum Wage Laws.
Other laws that can vary by state:
- Final Paycheck Laws – Guides when employers must pay the last paycheck upon termination. Requirements vary by voluntary or involuntary terminations by state.
- Wage Deduction Laws – What can be deducted from an employee’s paycheck.
- Drug and Alcohol Policies – This can vary, especially in regards to states with marijuana laws.
- Ban the Box – Removal from job applications asking if candidates have a criminal record.
- Salary History Bans – Prohibits employers from asking applicants about their current or past salaries or benefits.
- New Hire Registry Reporting – Reporting new hires in a state database.
- School/Parental Leave – Some states provide time off for parents to attend school-related events and activities for their children.
- Voting Leaves – Time off and protections for employees to leave work to vote.
- Jury Duty – Some states require paid or unpaid time off to serve on a jury.
- Child Labor Laws – Rules can vary by age and type of occupation.
- Emergency Responders – Requirements for leave for volunteer emergency responders.
- E-Verify – Required Verification of Employment Eligibility.
- Posters – Some of the statutes and regulations enforced by the U.S. Department of Labor require that notices be provided to employees and/or posted in the workplace. DOL provides free electronic and printed copies of these required posters.
The elaws Poster Advisor can be used to determine which poster(s) employers are required to display at their place(s) of business. Posters, available in English and other languages, may be downloaded and printed directly from the Advisor. If you already know which poster(s) you are required to display, see below to download and print the appropriate poster(s) free of charge.
The list above is not all-inclusive but rather a sample. Since many laws can affect employee rights and the workplace environment, it is critical to stay current to maintain a productive work atmosphere. We recommend that companies have an employee handbook that is reviewed and updated every year to comply with changing employment laws. Also, current workplace posters must be displayed or posted in conspicuous places that are easily visible to all employees.
For assistance with your Federal and State Compliant Employee Handbook and Company Policies or other Human Resource needs, please call: (833) 685-8400 or visit us online at hrserviceinc.com.
By Kay Gillespie, HR Business Partner, HR Service, Inc.