On February 2, 2011, the U.S. Department of Labor released a report summarizing notable state labor and employment legislation enacted in 2010. These new laws included the following:  

Discrimination Protections:

  • Michigan law now prohibits employment discrimination against women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.
  • Oklahoma law prohibits employers from discriminating against employees and applicants by refusing to reasonably accommodate religious observance or practice, unless an employer can show that the accommodation would pose an undue hardship on the business organization.
  • Oregon law also prohibits employers from discriminating against employees and applicants by refusing to reasonably accommodate religious observance or practice, unless an employer can show that the accommodation would pose an undue hardship on the business organization. Further, Oregon prohibits occupational requirements that restrict the right of an individual to wear religious clothing.
  • Tennessee amended its law to state specifically that it is not discrimination for an employer to create a workplace policy requiring that employees speak only English at certain times if the employer has a legitimate business necessity for such a policy.
  • Wisconsin law now bars an employer from discriminating against an employee who declines to attend an employer-sponsored meeting regarding religious or political matters, as well as those who decline to communicate with an employer or its agent about such matters.  

Protection of Workers’ Privacy

  • California law now requires that the state’s chief information officer require fingerprint images and associated information from certain employees, contractors, prospective employees, and others who, by virtue of their work or potential work at certain facilities, would have access to confidential or sensitive information on a computer network.
  • Florida’s legislature has expanded its state public records disclosure law to provide an exemption for certain personal information about current and former public defenders and staff of the privately run Office of Criminal Conflict and Civil Regional Counsel.
  • Georgia revised its public records disclosure law to increase the amount of personal information relating to teachers and other school employees exempt from disclosure.
  • In Illinois, employers and former employers divulging disciplinary reports, letters of reprimand, and other disciplinary actions taken against an employee to a third party will be required to provide written notice of such disclosure to the employee.
  • Wisconsin has made it illegal for anyone to solicit or require an HIV test as a condition of employment, or to use the results of an HIV test as a condition of employment.

Requirements to Verify Immigration Status of New Hires

  • Georgia will now require public agency contractors and subcontractors to register for and participate in the federal E-Verify program.
  • Hawaii will prohibit contractors from knowingly or intentionally employing an individual not eligible to work in the United States. Violation of the law will lead to revocation, suspension, and/or refusal to renew the license of the contractor.
  • Utah law now requires that all private employers with 15 or more employees register with and use a system that will verify the federal legal working status of all new employees.
  • Virginia requires all state agencies to enroll and use the federal E-Verify program to confirm the status of each new employee.
  • West Virginia has made it a misdemeanor for an employer to knowingly violate the law by employing, hiring, recruiting, or referring an unauthorized worker. An employer found guilty of violating the law is subject to a civil penalty up to $1,000 and a prison sentence of up to one year.

Wage Payment and Collection

  • Maryland amended its wage laws to include overtime wages and any other remuneration promised for service in the definition of “wage.”
  • Under Nebraska law, an employer must, upon an employee’s written request, provide an employee with an itemized statement identifying wages paid and deductions for each pay period.
  • Tennessee expanded the methods of wage payment to include payment by an electronic automated fund transfer or prepaid debit card, subject to certain limitations.
  • Vermont employers can now compensate employees through electronic fund transfers to a bank payroll card account.
  • Washington amended its laws regarding wage payment to change definitions, extend the time for the state to conduct investigations of alleged violations of the law, and change the calculations regarding back wages and interest owed to an employee.

Employee Leave Laws

  • Alabama expanded military leave eligibility to all active members of the state National Guard, Civil Air Patrol, Naval Militia, State Guard, National Disaster Medical System, and U.S. Armed Forces Reserve component for national defense and other training or service.
  • California law now requires that an employer provide a 30-minute unpaid meal break after an employee works five consecutive hours, although the break may be waived by mutual consent provided that the employee works no more than six hours during the day.
  • The District of Columbia has amended its municipal regulations regarding paid leave for employees for absences because of illness, domestic violence, and sexual abuse.
  • New York requires that employers provide funeral and/or bereavement leave to an employee for the death of his same sex partner if the employer would provide such leave to an employee for a spouse’s death.

Employee Misclassification

  • Under Connecticut law, each day that an employer knowingly or intentionally misclassifies an employee will now constitute a separate offense subject to civil money penalties of up to $1,000 per day.
  • Maine law now requires that a hiring agent or subcontractor who knowingly misclassifies constructions workers be issued a stop-work order.
  • New Hampshire’s governor issued an executive order directing that state departments responsible for enforcing employee misclassification laws coordinate their resources to investigate cases of misclassification and work on strategies to eliminate misclassification.
  • Wisconsin amended its employee classification law to require that employers maintain records of all employees, including their hours, wages, and deductions. Additionally, the law now requires that employers offer workers’ compensation coverage for employees.