Federal Deregulation Update: Where Do We Stand Nine Months Into The Trump Administration?

By Susan Drenning, President, ComplyRight, Inc.

A month after the Trump administration took office, I shared some insights on how the federal deregulation goal was leading to an uptick in state and local employment legislation. I recommended that retailers across the U.S. keep a close eye on this trend – and plan to respond to any changes in the states and cities where they conduct business.

As we enter the final months of 2017, let’s take another look at employment regulation activity under federal, state and local government. As predicted, Washington continues to lag, while closer to home, regulators are picking up steam.

Employment Legislation with Most Activity

Minimum wage is still the primary area of disparity between the fed and the states. While the federal minimum wage remains $7.25/hr. – a rate that was established in 2009, states and cities continue to roll out their own, more generous rates. At the beginning of 2017, 19 states had already raised the minimum wage. Among these states, approximately a third of them pay minimum wages close to or above $10. Looking forward, New York City’s minimum wage will rise to $15/hr. by 2019, with Washington, D.C., following in their footsteps by 2020.

Paid sick leave is another hot topic with state and local lawmakers. If you recall, one Trump promise on the campaign trail was to provide six weeks of paid leave to new mothers. We have yet to see any movement on the federal agenda.

In the meantime, seven states have passed some form of paid sick leave legislation, as has Washington, D.C. On a local level, more than 25 cities now have their own paid sick leave requirements.

Other Trending Legislation to Watch

Minimum wage and paid sick leave aren’t the only employment issues gaining momentum with state and local lawmakers. In fact, hundreds of new employment-related bills were introduced in the first quarter of 2017 alone.

Here are a few of them — and how they could affect your retail business in the coming months and into 2018:

  • “Opportunity to work” law for part-timers According to the Economic Policy Institute, about 6.4 million workers across the nation sought full-time employment last year but instead settled for part-time work. As a result, the city of San Jose, CA, approved a landmark law that requires companies with 36 or more employees to offer extra hours first to part-time workers before hiring new staff. The California legislature also proposed “The Opportunity to Work Act” with similar requirements for the entire state.
  • “Ban the box” – By prohibiting employers from asking about a criminal conviction on the job application, this legislation gives job candidates a chance to move forward on their own merits and skills. Nationwide, 29 states and more than 150 cities and counties have some type of ban-the-box legislation for public employers. Nine states require the removal of conviction history from job applications for private employers. Some versions of the ban prohibit employers from asking about criminal history until after an interview while others require the employer to wait until a conditional offer of employment.
  • Salary history inquiry ban – In June 2017, Delaware and Oregon passed laws prohibiting employers from asking applicants their past salaries, either on the application or during the interview. Similar bans exist in Massachusetts, Puerto Rico, New York City and San Francisco, with laws pending in several other cities and the state of California.
  • Wage transparency – Several states are evaluating legislation regarding salary disclosure in the workplace. These proposals would make it unlawful for employers to discourage employees from sharing or discussing their salaries with other employees.
  • Schedule-related legislation – Predictable scheduling laws require proper notice and fair compensation if employee work schedules are suddenly changed. These laws limit “just in time” or “on-call” scheduling practices, mostly in the retail and restaurant industries. Seattle passed a predictable scheduling law that took effect in July 2017. Recently, a New York City ordinance passed so now four cities, San Francisco, CA, Emeryville, CA, Seattle, WA and New York City, NY have passed ordinances that require employers to give employees advanced notice of their schedules and any changes. Oregon recently became the first state to pass similar legislation. The new, Fair Work Week Act, imposes predictive scheduling requirements on large employers in certain industries, including retail and food service. The law goes into effect in 2018.

Keeping Current and Compliant with All the Changes

As you know, deregulation at the federal level doesn’t ease your compliance responsibilities. Quite the opposite! A federal slowdown, combined with a rise in legislative activity at the state and local level, creates more complexity.

Don’t get caught off guard or, worse, fall out of compliance. As a first step, review your workplace policies and practices and address any areas that demand immediate attention. For example, when the minimum wage varies at the federal, state or local level, you must provide the rate most beneficial to workers. Neglecting to do this is a violation of the time and pay provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

At the same time, you should verify that your workplace posting center includes the necessary local notices, in addition to mandatory federal and state postings. Case in point: You must display every applicable minimum wage posting, even if rates conflict.

Finally, it may be wise to use an outsourced partner that will monitor legislative changes and determine their impact on mandatory postings. The rapid pace of change with state and local employment legislation demands extra time and diligence, which many businesses simply don’t have. A reliable and experienced posting service can help you manage the increased responsibility and ensure you’re up to date with the latest postings, and the laws that apply to your various work locations.

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