United States: Employment Laws To Watch In The New Year

The New Year brings with it changes to several laws that employers need to be aware of to avoid potential liability.

California

The following laws are effective January 1, 2018:

California's Labor Code was amended to prohibit all employers from relying on "salary history information" as a factor in determining whether to offer employment and what salary to offer an applicant.  Further, an employer may not seek, directly or indirectly (i.e., through a staffing agency), information regarding an applicant's salary history.

California's Fair Employment and Housing Act ("FEHA") was amended to make it unlawful for employers with five (5) or more employees to: (i) include on any application for employment any question that seeks disclosure of an applicant's conviction history; (ii) inquire into or consider an applicant's conviction history before the applicant receives an offer of employment, and (iii) consider, distribute or disseminate information related to arrests that did not result in convictions. The amendment provides that employers may only consider an applicant's conviction history after the applicant has received a conditional offer of employment.  Employers should be aware that very few positions are exempt from the above requirements; one such exemption is when an employer is required by law to check conviction history.  The FEHA was also amended to include an expanded anti-harassment training component based on gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation and requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide two hours of sexual harassment training to supervisors every two years.  Read more about the FEHA here.

The New Parental Leave Act amends the California Family Rights Act (the "CFRA") to allow employees who work for an employer with at least 20 employees to take twelve (12) weeks of unpaid leave for new child bonding purposes so long as the employee works at a worksite that employs at least 20 employees within a 75-mile radius.  The new law is an expansion of the CFRA, which previously only applied to employers with 50 or more employees. The law applies to both private and public employers.  Similar to the CFRA's current requirements, it will be unlawful for a covered employer to refuse to allow an eligible employee to take up to 12 weeks of parental leave to bond with a new child within one year of the child's birth, adoption, for foster care placement.

New York

Effective January 1, 2018, nearly all private employees in New York State will be eligible for Paid Family Leave ("PFL").  Through PFL, employees of covered employers are eligible for (i) paid time off for eight weeks in 2018, increasing to twelve weeks by 2021; (ii) job protection upon return from PFL, and (iii) continuation of health insurance while on PFL.  PFL coverage will typically be added to an employer's existing disability insurance policy and will be paid for through employee deductions.

Texas

Effective September 1, 2017, the Texas Labor Code was amended to include Section 21.0595, requiring employers to extend personal leave policies presently applied to biological or adopted children to foster children. Notably, the statute does not require that said leave be provided.

Minimum Wage Increases For 2018

California

Beginning January 1, 2018, California's minimum wage will increase from $10.00 per hour to $10.50 per hour for employers with 25 employees or less.  For employers with 26 or more employees, the minimum wage will increase from $10.50 per hour to $11.00 per hour.  Many cities in California have higher minimum wage laws by ordinance.  In San Francisco, the minimum wage increased to $14.00 per hour on July 1, 2017.  It is set to increase to $15.00 per hour on July 1, 2018.  San Diego's minimum wage increased to $11.50 this year, and beginning January 1, 2019, San Diego's minimum wage will increase based on the Consumer Price Index.

District of Columbia

As of July 1, 2017, the minimum wage in D.C. is $12.50 per hour.  It will increase to $13.25 per hour on July 1, 2018.

Florida

Effective January 1, 2018, the minimum wage in the state of Florida will increase from $8.10 per hour to $8.25 per hour.  This increase is a reflection of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity's obligation under Florida law to readjust the state's minimum wage rate annually based on the federal Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers in the South Region.  Thus, while the federal minimum wage will most likely remain at $7.25 per hour, Florida employers will be required to pay their non-exempt employees the increased rate in 2018.

New York

Effective December 31, 2017, New York State's minimum wage will increase from $9.70 per hour to $10.40 per hour.  New York City has different minimum wage rates: effective December 31, 2017, employers with 10 or fewer employees must have a minimum wage of $12.00 per hour, while employers with 11 or more employees must have a minimum age of $13.00 per hour.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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