The results are in: our opinion poll of HR Dive newsletter readers last week found that more than half (53%) of respondents see state and local laws as their top compliance concern headed into 2018.
It’s not all that surprising, given the rash of laws that have been passed in 2017 alone, including those voted on during the 2016 election season.
Uncertainty at the federal level hasn't helped, either. With notable circuit splits, failed Congressional votes and seemingly endless appeals, that stagnation has led cities and localities to take matters into their own hands on key workplace issues. Below, we’ve recapped a few that particularly stand out:
Salary history question bans
In the movement to close the gender pay gap, governments are passing these bans left and right. Their effectiveness may still be up for debate, but that hasn't stopped the momentum for advocates, especially since that pay gap could be around for quite some time.
Illinois lawmakers recently failed to override a gubernatorial veto of a proposal for a salary history question ban, and other legal challenges continue in highly populated locales like Philadelphia. Not every side of the aisle is on board with the bans as a method for improving equality, arguing that the burden placed on HR is staggering. Indeed, some businesses may have to develop entirely new systems of compensation in order to comply fully in those locales where bans have been implemented.
Others have attempted more novel approaches to the issue, like Salesforce's Marc Benioff, who dropped millions on paycheck boosts in order to correct inequity among male and female employees. GoDaddy implemented its own ban on such questions long before anyone forced it to do so.
Criminal history disclosure remains a controversial component of job applications in the US, and the removal of that check-able ‘box’ is as strong as ever. Over 150 cities and counties have enacted such laws, according to the National Employment Law Project (NELP). A total of ten states (CA, CT, HI, IL, MA, MN, NJ, OR, RI and VT) have passed laws that remove the box from private employers' job applications.
California, whose state legislature voted to pass its law in October, is the most recent state to pass a ban the box law affecting private employers; the state has previously only prohibited the measure for public employers. Ban-the-box is spreading with generally bipartisan support, but research suggests employers still need to strictly enforce anti-discrimination measures in order for the measure to be effective.
Successful legislative attempts and local ordinances have come and gone, but the issue has largely remained a dormant one since the last election, when four states voted "yes" to increase their minimum wage: Arizona, Colorado, Maine and Washington. But public clamor for wage increases has not died, especially since salary improvements aren't expected to be spectacular going into next year.
A particularly active area of employment law in 2017, employers have been introducing enhanced paid time off policies throughout the country, and some states have made a point out of cutting through Congressional slack with respect to helping new parents.
But that latter action by states has given larger employers headaches. It's such a problem that a group of 380 such companies sent a letter to a GOP-led Congress, asking for a resolution to the patchwork problem. The result: a new bill on the docket that could allow companies to opt out of local paid leave ordinances in favor of a single, federal option that would also solve problems with flexible work.
It's still only a bill sitting on Capitol Hill, though, so employers shouldn't hold their breath just yet.