As 2012 winds to a close, a look back at legal developments demonstrates that federal and state legislatures were busy all year long. Every year, employers are inundated with new employment laws and regulations that impose new compliance obligations on employers. This year is no exception. This summary provides an overview of new laws – and a chart of laws that become effective in 2013 – and is the result of Littler's 50-state tracking of federal and state employment legislation and regulations. California was by far the busiest state with over 35 new pieces of employment-related legislation and regulations, but nearly every state had something new for employers this year.1

Each year brings different trends in employment-related legislation. Often, after one state passes a law, others quickly follow with similar legislation. For example, in 2011 New Jersey became the first in the nation to ban discrimination based on unemployment status. Numerous states proposed similar legislation in 2012, and both the District of Columbia and Oregon enacted their own unemployment discrimination bills in the spring of 2012.

With a vigorous election season in 2012, ballot initiatives were very popular. Both Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana, leaving employers questioning the effects of such laws on the workplace.2 Massachusetts voters passed a medical marijuana law, while Montana voters revised their existing medical marijuana law. In Connecticut, legislators, not voters, also approved medical marijuana.3 Same-sex marriage, health care reform, and secret union ballots also filled the ballot box this fall in states throughout the nation.

Each year we see a new bill or two that begs the question, is this the latest trend? Rhode Island receives the honor of passing possibly the most unique new employment law. This new state law prohibits employment discrimination against the homeless, creating a "Homeless Bill of Rights," under which individuals have the right not to face discrimination while seeking or maintaining employment because they lack a permanent mailing address, or because their mailing address is a shelter or social service provider. An aggrieved individual can file a civil suit and, if successful, be awarded injunctive and declaratory relief, actual damages, and reasonable attorneys' fees and costs. As a point of interest, a California legislator has already introduced a similar bill in the new legislative session. We will continue to track this topic and keep clients advised of new developments.

Some of the changes are the result of laws that are automatically updated on an annual basis. At least 10 states will raise their minimum wage in 2013, with nine of those increases caused by recurring annual revisions.4 Other regulatory activity is based on ongoing implementation of new laws. For example, California's Division of Labor Standards Enforcement this year continued to modify its interpretation of the California Wage Theft Prevention Act.5 In addition, California approved new regulations effective December 30, 2012 that address pregnancy discrimination.

In light of all of these changes, employers should confirm what new laws have passed in the jurisdictions in which they operate and when the new laws or regulations become effective. Employers then must devise a plan to ensure that they comply with these new requirements.

There is no reason to believe that the federal government and state legislatures and regulators will be less active in 2013, but the focus of their activity will continue to be a moving target. To assist employers in navigating this critical area of compliance, Littler offers to clients Littler GPS – a paid subscription service that tracks legal developments and provides analysis and guidance on new laws and regulations. The Littler GPS online database provides user-friendly functionality, including full-text content search and intuitive navigation, which can easily be focused on the jurisdictions the user selects. Updated weekly, Littler GPS keeps employers informed and up to date by sending email alerts with links to the latest information.

If you have any questions about new federal or state laws, or Littler GPS, please contact your Littler Attorney.

Enacted Legislation & Regulations by 2013 Effective Date

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