Article Summary: There are many small business owners wondering what new regulations and employment laws are in effect this year. Here is some of what's changing and what you can expect as an employer.

employment law

Justice may be blind, but as a business owner, you can't afford to be. Read more about what new legislation you need to stay on top of.

With the new presidency, many employers are wondering how employment laws will evolve over the next few years. Many issues are still in flux, including those concerning national worker board nominations, healthcare policies and immigration law. In December 2017, more than 40 employment-related bills were worked on across 20 states and municipalities.

In 2018, there are several changes to federal and state employment laws that are important for B2C startups and businesses to be aware of. Consulting with law representation for the business is wise to stay abreast of any changes that could affect your company. Here’s a primer of what to keep in mind.

2018 Federal Employment Laws

A couple federal mandates go into effect in 2018 that will affect businesses. These include:

  • Employee Benefits Security Administration Proposed Delay of Rules for Plans with Disability Benefits: The final rules for claims regulations for Employee Retirement Income Security Act-covered disability benefit plans were scheduled to become applicable January 1, 2018, but are now not planned to go into effect until April 1, 2018. During this 90-day review period, the Department of Labor may rescind or modify the rules.
  • Securities and Exchange Commission Pay Ratio Guidance: In early 2018, companies are required to make pay ratio disclosures for executive compensation under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. The interpretive guidance that has been passed helps companies navigate the new disclosure requirements.

Other labor laws are expected to be debated and discussed in 2018. These include: Fair Labor Standards Act overtime regulations; the Save Local Business Act that amends labor and employment statutes to clarify what can be recognized as a “joint employer”; and the Workflex in the 21st Century Act, which creates a voluntary program that allows employers that choose to offer a minimum number of compensable leave days per year and institute a flexible work arrangement to be exempt from state and local paid leave laws.

Minimum Wage Changes

Every year, one of the most reliable expected changes comes in state minimum wages — 2018 is no exception. Littler lists minimum wage changes that went into effect January 1, 2018, state by state. Notable changes include:

  • Minimum wage increases of $0.50/hour: Arizona, California, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington
  • Minimum wage increase of $0.75/hour: District of Columbia
  • Minimum wage increases of $0.85/hour: Hawaii, Maryland
  • Minimum wage increase of $0.90/hour: Colorado
  • Minimum wage increase of $1/hour: Maine

Altogether, 18 states have varying minimal increases, and some states have no increase at all.

Notable State Labor Laws

Your business lawyer will be able to tell you what state-specific laws your business in particular should pay attention to, but here are some notable new state labor laws that have the potential to influence laws nationwide in the future.

California – A new statewide ban on asking employment applicants about their criminal conviction history until a conditional offer of employment has been made is now in effect. The Fair Chance Act, called “Ban the Box,” applies to private employers with five employees or more.

More new parents will be able to reap the benefits of the California Family Rights Act, which now extends up to 12 weeks of unpaid baby bonding leave time to new parents who have at least 1,250 hours of service with the employer over the previous year-long period and who work at a location in which the employer has at least 20 employees within 75 miles.

A new section has been added to the Labor Code, AB 168, which stipulates that employers are not able to seek salary history information or rely on salary history information to determine whether an applicant is hired or how much they should be paid. Upon reasonable request, employers are required to provide a pay scale to applicants, and applicants who voluntarily disclose salary history without prompting will not be affected by their decision to do so.

SB 396 expands required sexual harassment training and education to include a component on gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation. It also requires employers with five or more employees to display a poster on transgender rights, which is provided by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, in a prominent location within a business.

Another notable change in California pertains to immigration enforcement. AB 450 bans employers from allowing immigration enforcement agents to access a workspace without a warrant or access employee records without a court order or subpoena. As these new laws affect the most populous state in the United States, they’re worth taking note of for their potential to influence businesses across the country.

Massachusetts – Like California, in Massachusetts, SB 2119, An Act to Establish Pay Equity, bans employers from making salary history inquiries and restricting employees from disclosing wage information. The bill prohibits businesses from discriminating pay rates based on gender.

SB 3680, An Act Establishing the Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, mandates that businesses accommodate all pregnant employees and women in their buildings who need to pump breast milk.

New York – Another major family leave law goes into effect in 2018 in New York, AB A9006C, which gives eligible employees up to 12 weeks of paid family leave a year.

Last fall, vaping indoors was banned indoors and in every place where smoking is prohibited in New York State. SB2543 extends the prohibition to vaping in public areas including workplaces.

Other State Labor Laws

Some other notable state laws that are also going into effect beginning January 1, 2018, include:

  • SB 361 in Nevada: This bill gives victims of domestic violence, and employees who have family or household members who are domestic violence victims, leave of up to 160 hours per year and reasonable work accommodation, including new work numbers or schedules.
  • SB 290 in Rhode Island: The Healthy and Safe Families and Workplaces Act requires businesses with at least 18 employees to provide at least three paid sick days in 2018, at least four paid sick days in 2019 and at least five paid sick days every year after. Employees must be paid the same rate and retain benefits during leave.
  • HB 462 in Vermont: This bill grants social media privacy to employees and prohibits employers from asking for personal social media account information from employees.

For more information on updated employment law changes, visit Littler’s Workplace Policy Institute to read monthly newsletters on all the changes.

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