United States: State Law Round-Up: 2019 Minimum Wage Rates, Paid Sick Leave Developments And More (US)

Last Updated: January 9 2019
Article by Melissa Legault and Shennan Harris

Our first State Law Round-Up of the new year is here to make sure you start off 2019 on the right foot—by making sure you have not missed any of the new state employment laws that are now in effect or coming soon.

2019 State and Local Minimum Wage Rates

With federal minimum wage still at $7.25, state and local governments are continuing to take the initiative to raise their minimum wages. You can find the 2019 state and local minimum wage rates in this chart.

Michigan's Paid Sick Leave

In September 2018, in order to avoid allowing voters to vote on a ballot measure, the Michigan legislature enacted a law that would require employers to provide employees with paid sick leave. However, as expected, in December 2018, the legislature significantly amended the law (now titled the Paid Medical Leave Act). Most notably, the amended law only applies to employers with 50 or more employees and creates a rebuttable presumption that an employer is in compliance with the Act if the employer provides at least 40 hours of paid leave to employees each year. Like Washington's paid sick leave law, only non-exempt employees will be covered. Under the amended law, employees accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every 35 hours worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours per year (the original version of the law provided for one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 72 hours per year). Employees may only use 40 hours of paid sick leave per year and may only carry over up to 40 hours of unused sick leave to the following year. On December 14, 2018, Michigan's governor Rick Snyder signed the amended bill into law; it is scheduled to go into effect April 1, 2019.

Austin and San Antonio Paid Sick Leave Update

As we previously reported here, Austin and San Antonio, Texas enacted paid sick leave ordinances in 2018. The Austin ordinance was scheduled to go into effect on October 1, 2018 but was temporarily enjoined by the Texas Court of Appeals, which later held that the ordinance was unconstitutional. Just before the Austin ordinance was challenged in court, San Antonio enacted its own paid sick leave law, which is largely similar to the Austin ordinance. San Antonio's ordinance went into effect on January 1, 2019, despite the court's ruling regarding the Austin ordinance. However, employers have until August 2019 (August 2021 for employers with five or fewer employees) before the provisions of the ordinance will be enforced and employees begin accruing time. Given what happened to the Austin ordinance, it is quite possible that the San Antonio ordinance may meet a similar fate, so employers with employees in San Antonio will need to closely monitor developments.

Washington's Paid Family and Medical Leave Program

Under Washington State's Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML), Washington workers will be entitled to partial wage replacement while on leave to recover from an illness or injury, to bond with a new child, to take care of a sick or injured family member, or for absences resulting from certain military obligations. Both employers and employees pay premiums each paycheck to fund the program and then eligible employees can receive benefits from the state when they need family or medical leave. Employers are responsible for deducting the employee portion of the premiums from employees' wages and remitting them to the state and larger employers are responsible for paying a portion of the premiums. Employers are also responsible for reporting hours and wages to the state.

If the employer employs 50 or more employees in Washington and the employee has worked for the employer for at least 12 months and at least 1,250 hours in the prior year, PFML leave is job-protected, meaning an employee must be returned to the same or comparable position at the end of the leave period. Payroll deductions for PFML premiums began on January 1, 2019 and employees may apply for benefits beginning on January 1, 2020. An employee will become eligible for PFML benefits once they have completed 820 hours of work for any employer in Washington in the qualifying period, which is the first four of the last five full calendar quarters, or the last four full calendar quarters (either period may be used to establish eligibility). Where an employee requests leave for a reason covered by both the PFML and the federal Family Medical Leave Act, the leave will simultaneously count against the employee's entitlement under both laws.

Other Employment Law Updates

  • Beginning January 1, 2019, Vermont employees receive an increase in the paid sick leave hours they may accrue and use from 24 hours to 40 hours under Vermont's Paid Sick Leave law.
  • Under an amendment to the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act, effective January 1, 2019, employers are required to reimburse employees for "all necessary expenditures or losses incurred by the employee within the employee's scope of employment and directly related to services performed for the employer." Employers with employees in Illinois should review and revise their expense reimbursement policies to ensure compliance with this new law.
  • Effective January 1, 2019, the Bureau of Labor and Industries will begin enforcing Oregon's Equal Pay Act, including its salary history inquiry ban. Oregon employers are no longer permitted to obtain or use an applicant's or employee's pay history until after making a job offer that includes compensation. Oregon employers should ensure their applications are updated and revised if necessary and that those performing interviews are educated on the new restrictions.
  • The premium pay rate for certain Massachusetts employees working on Sundays or holidays decreased from 1.5 times the regular rate of pay to 1.4 times the regular rate of pay effective January 1, 2019 (the premium pay requirement is slowly being phased out).
  • Beginning on March 18, 2019, New York City employers with at least four employees must provide lactation rooms for employees and distribute a written lactation policy to employees.

Last, but not least by a long stretch, there are a lot of developments employers with employees working in California should be aware of—keep an eye on your inbox for a blog post summarizing new and revised California employment laws next week.

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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