New 2020 Policies Impacting Employers

January 2, 2020
Author: ThinkWhy Analyst

The year 2020 is ripe with policy changes and additions. Most of the new laws taking effect are at the state and local levels, presenting compliance challenges for employers with operations in multiple jurisdictions. Take note of several states impacted.

New HR Policies for January 2020

New Jersey


Bans Hairstyle Discrimination

California will enable a law to protect employees from discrimination based on natural hair and hairstyles associated with race.

SB 188, known as the CROWN Act, seeks to "create a respectful and open workplace for natural hair.” The bill will protect employees who wear their natural Afro-textured curly hair in an un-straightened (hence, "natural") style and will address the issue of "black employees and applicants denied employment or promotion—even terminated—because of the way they choose to wear their hair," State Senator Holly Mitchell said.

ABC Test for Independent Contractors

A new law, AB5, will mandate California employers use an ABC test to determine if a worker is considered an independent contractor or an employee. The government’s default status of a worker is as an employee unless they can meet specific guidelines. This is important because employers may have to offer gig workers compensation benefits, hourly wages and follow the state’s guidelines for overtime laws. The test could potentially disrupt the gig economy in California.

Labor unions and worker advocates supported the California lawmakers' decision to pass the measure. The ABC test "will expand employment protections to thousands of workers who are currently misclassified by their employers as independent contractors," according to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

California Consumer Privacy Act: Employer implications

Governor Newsom signed several amendments to the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), two of which will have a direct impact on employers doing business in the state. The new amendments require covered businesses meeting a certain revenue threshold or other criteria to implement policies and procedures that provide consumers—which includes employees—certain privacy rights not available under existing law.

Expands Anti-Harassment Training

Under a law that took effect in 2018, California employers with five or more employees are required to provide sexual harassment prevention training every two years to all employees. That includes one hour of training to non-supervisors and two hours of training to supervisors.

Full-time, part-time and temporary employees are included in the employer's headcount, regardless of their work location or residence within California. The employer is responsible for the training costs. Employers cannot require employees to complete the training during personal time, so workers must be paid for attending.

Starting Jan. 1, 2021, new employees must be trained within six months of their hire date, and newly promoted supervisors must be trained within six months of their promotion.


Criminalizes Wage Theft

Employers will face potential criminal charges for failing to pay wages. Employers will need to ensure that employee wages and hours are in compliance or they will risk facing criminal penalties.

Under current Colorado law, an employer may be found guilty of wage theft if it willfully refuses to pay a wage claim or falsely denies the amount or validity of a wage claim. HB 1267 redefines wage theft as "criminal theft."


Legalizes Recreational Marijuana

The Illinois General Assembly passed the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act (HB 1438) will allow anyone 21 years of age or older to possess, use or buy marijuana. The new law will affect employers and HR departments in the city as they struggle with the implications for their employees and hiring procedures.

Workplace Transparency Act

SB 75 created three new laws and amended others that relate to sexual harassment and discrimination.

The new law prohibits unilateral agreements to arbitrate claims involving discrimination, harassment, and retaliation for complaining about discrimination or harassment. In addition, it changes sexual harassment reporting and training requirements.

Artificial Intelligence Video Interview Act

The Illinois legislature, in what has been described as the most momentous legislative session in decades, passed the privacy statute aimed at regulating an ever-growing issue in HR: the use of AI in the hiring process.

Illinois will implement a law to regulate the use of artificial intelligence (ai) during video interviews. For employers that ask applicants to record video interviews, applicants must be notified, in writing, before the interviews. The notification must clearly state that ai may be used to analyze the applicant’s facial features and consider the applicant's fitness for the position. In addition, employers must obtain written consent from the applicant to be evaluated by the ai program. Employers may not share applicant videos, except with persons whose expertise is necessary in order to evaluate an applicant’s fitness for a position.


Duluth Paid Sick Leave

The City of Duluth has published final rules and revised FAQs implementing its Earned Sick and Safe Time Ordinance. The ordinance is aimed at employers with five or more employees, regardless of whether they work in Duluth.

Under the law, employees accrue, or an employer frontloads, paid sick and safe time (SST) that employees can use for themselves or to care for or assist a covered family member for the following reasons: mental or physical illness, injury or health condition. That is in addition to absences for medical diagnosis and absences connected to domestic abuse, sexual assault or stalking.

Wage Theft Ordinance

A new wage theft ordinance coming to the city of Minneapolis in 2020 places more requirements on employers than the new statewide wage theft law that took effect on July 1. On August 8, the Minneapolis City Council unanimously passed the ordinance, establishing the city's own set of requirements to prevent and punish wage theft.


Paid Leave for Any Reason

Senate Bill No. 312 will require that Nevada private-sector employers provide employees with up to 40 hours of paid leave each benefit year. The bill requires that paid leave be made available to employees to be used for any reason. With limited exceptions, employers with 50 or more employees must provide paid leave to their employees in proportion to the number of hours worked.

New Jersey

Restricts Pay History Inquiries

Bill A1094 prohibits employers from screening job applicants based on the applicant's prior salary history, which includes prior wages, salary and benefits.

In addition, employers may not require that an applicant's salary history satisfy any minimum or maximum threshold to be considered for a job.

Mandates Panic Buttons for Hotel Workers

New Jersey enacted legislation that requires hotels with at least 100 guest rooms to provide panic devices to certain employees. The Panic Device Law protects hotel employees, primarily housekeepers, from sexual assault, sexual harassment and other unsafe working conditions. The law will embolden them to report crimes without the fear of retaliation from their employer.


Pregnancy Accommodations Law

Oregon law requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, absent undue hardship.

Currently, when an employee needs accommodation due to pregnancy, childbirth or related conditions, employers must work through complex and scattered state and federal laws to understand their options and obligations. The new law consolidates the rules regarding pregnancy and childbirth accommodations in one place, thus, making them easier to understand.


Noncompete Reform

Engrossed Substitute House Bill 1450 (HB 1450) radically alters the law governing noncompetition agreements and moonlighting prohibitions in Washington State. The bill will become effective on January 1, 2020, but includes provisions for retroactivity. Employers with operations in Washington who have (or want) such agreements with their employees or are considering hiring individuals who have entered into such agreements with other employers, will have new restrictions.

There are many more laws significantly impacting employers beginning January 1st. For a comprehensive review of the new policies by state, a list can be found on mondaq.