2017 Final Legislative Update: Employment & Labor
An analysis from DRM's Government & Public Affairs Team
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EMPLOYMENT & LABOR
Accommodations for Pregnant Employees
The legislature passed a bill that imposes new state requirements for employers to accommodate pregnant and lactating women in the workplace. Employers will be required to make "reasonable accommodations" for a person whose abilities are limited by pregnancy, childbirth or a related condition. The Senate added language to the bill clarifying that the rights covered by the new requirements would be similar to those of a person with a disability.
Child Care Funding
The annual budget bill includes $2.5 million in new funding for child care programs. The bill increases funding for family subsidies by $300,000 and includes a new $2.2 million grant program that was included in the Senate-passed bill. Under the new Early Care and Development Program grant, 70 percent of grant money, or $1.54 million, will designated for center-based programs. The money will be allocated based on the percentage of enrollees receiving state subsidies as well as the average number of enrolled infants and toddlers.
Multiple Employer Public Retirement Plan
The legislature authorized State Treasurer Beth Pearce to develop a statewide public retirement plan available to workplaces with 50 or fewer workers. The plan, which is called a Multiple Employer Plan, will be self-funded and operated by a third party vendor.
The plan is intended to provide a low-cost option for employees of organizations that are too small to dedicate resources to running a retirement plan and with too few employees to make it attractive to third-party providers. Employers will be responsible for withholding payroll deductions from participating workers, a board will oversee operation of the plan, and a third party vendor will operate the pooled system.
The plan will not be implemented until 2019, after a Public Retirement Plan Study Committee develops specific recommendations concerning its design, creation, and implementation.
Paid Family Leave
Overriding concerns about the potentially high cost to the state and higher payroll taxes for employees, the House passed legislation to create a state-run insurance program to provide paid family and parental leave to employees.
Under the bill, employees would be entitled to as many as six weeks of paid leave at 80 percent of their normal wage when taking time off from work for the birth of a child or illness of a close relative. The bill exempts businesses with ten or fewer employees and would require employees to work for at least one year before qualifying for the benefit. Financing for the plan would come from an employee payroll tax of 0.141 percent of wages up to $150,000. Employers could opt to pay the tax for their employees. Tax collection would begin on July 1, 2018, and the benefit would be first available on Oct. 1, 2019.
The bill is expected to be taken up by the Senate next session.
Social Media Privacy for Employees
Employers will generally be prohibited from asking for access to their employees’ private social media accounts under a bill that is on its way to the governor for signature. H.462 prohibits an employer from requiring a worker to provide his or her username and password to a private social media account, but it also allows access to accounts provided by the employer and access to information needed to meet state or federal requirements, such as oversight of brokerage activity. It would not allow an employer to require access to private postings, but would allow employers to request voluntary access.
Testimony revealed that more and more employees are using personal electronic devices to access programs and applications that are maintained by employers for business reasons. The bill distinguishes between personal use and use that is central to performing a job.