The big news on Election Night 2014 was, of course, the Republican Wave and that party’s takeover of the Senate majority, as well as many governors’ mansions and state houses. This political shift will undoubtedly lead to statutory and regulatory changes that impact employers.

But employers must understand the significant state and local ballot initiatives approved by voters on Tuesday that will have a more immediate impact. For example, five states passed initiatives affecting their minimum wage. Three jurisdictions passed initiatives legalizing marijuana. One state passed an initiative mandating paid sick leave.

Minimum Wage

While the federal minimum wage for non-tipped employees remains at $7.25/hour, voters in Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota overwhelmingly approved increasing their state minimum wage. In addition, Illinois voters approved an advisory initiative encouraging its legislators to increase its state minimum wage. Here is what employers need to know:

Alaska

  • Effective January 1, 2015, the minimum wage will increase to $8.75/hour
  • Effective January 1, 2016, the minimum wage will increase to $9.75/hour
  • Thereafter, the minimum wage will adjust annually for inflation

Arkansas

  • Effective January 1, 2015, the minimum wage will increase to $7.50/hour
  • Effective January 1, 2016, the minimum wage will increase to $8.00/hour
  • Effective January 1, 2017, the minimum wage will increase to $8.50/hour

Illinois

  • Passed a non-binding advisory initiative encouraging the legislature to increase the minimum wage to $10/hour

Nebraska

  • Effective January 1, 2015, the minimum wage will increase to $8.00/hour
  • Effective January 1, 2016, the minimum wage will increase to $9.00/hour

South Dakota

  • Effective January 1, 2015, the minimum wage will increase to $8.50/hour
  • Thereafter, the minimum wage will adjust annually for cost-of-living increases, measured by the Consumer Price Index published by the Department of Labor
  • The minimum wage for tipped employees will be half of the minimum wage for non-tipped employees

Also, note that the minimum wage in San Francisco, Oakland, and Eureka, California, will increase to $15/hour, $12.25/hour, and $12/hour, respectively.

Marijuana Legalization

Voters in Alaska, the District of Columbia, and Oregon passed laws concerning marijuana use. Though perhaps not directly related to employment laws, state-level marijuana legalization may impact on employers’ workplace accommodation, zero-tolerance policies and drug-testing procedures.

Alaska

By February 2015, marijuana use is legal for anybody 21 years or older. This includes the possession, use, purchase, transportation and growing of marijuana. It does not prevent employers from restricting those activities or from restricting marijuana use on their property. The regulatory framework for recreational use is expected by November 2015.

Washington, D.C.

If approved by the U.S. Congress, the possession of two ounces or less of marijuana for personal use will be legal. Individuals may grow marijuana for personal use and may “transfer without payment” up to one ounce of marijuana to another person 21 years or older. As with Alaska, the law does not impact an employer’s prohibition of marijuana use.

Oregon

The initiative expands the current legal framework regulating and taxing the manufacture, processing, sale, and licensing of medical marijuana to include recreational use for adults. Employers have no independent duty to accommodate marijuana use under current Oregon law, which goes into effect in July 2015.

Sick Leave

Massachusetts

Massachusetts voters approved a comprehensive paid sick leave law. Under the new law, employees will be entitled to up to 40 hours of paid sick leave. Employees will also be permitted to use sick days to attend to the medical needs of their family. The sick leave law is effective July 1, 2015.