State Labor Law Legislation Enacted in 1991

Article excerpt

Richard R. Nelson is a State standards advisor in the Division of State Standards Programs, Wage and Hour Division, Employment Standards Administration, U.S. Department of Labor. David A. Levy, an advisor in the same division, contributed to the article.

A number of major pieces of State legislation were enacted in 1991 covering several different aspects of employment standards.(1) The greatest areas of concentration were on the traditional subjects of minimum wage protection and the regulation of child labor. Legislation was also enacted on the emerging issue of employee leasing, and on other contemporary issues such as the right to parental leave, the prohibition on employment discrimination because of sexual orientation, and employee drug and alcohol testing.

Wages. Minimum wage protection was one of the most active issues in 1991. Rates increased under Federal law and in 29 States and 3 jurisdictions as the result of new laws, wage orders, administrative actions, or as provided for in prior legislation.(2) In addition, legislation was enacted providing for increases in 1992, in Hawaii and North Carolina. While most of the increases were to match the Federal $4.25 hourly rate that took effect on April 1, 1991, higher rates will be in effect on January 1, 1992, in Alaska, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Iowa, Oregon, Rhode Island, and the Virgin Islands. (After April 1, 1992, Hawaii and New Jersey will also exceed the Federal rate.)

Subminimum training wages for employees under age 20 were adopted in Nebraska, North Carolina, and Virginia; for those under 19 in West Virginia; and for those under 18 in North Dakota. A training wage provision in Montana was repealed. In South Dakota, minors under age 18 are now subject to the minimum wage law and must receive at least 75 percent of the basic minimum. Increases in youth rates were adopted in Maine and Utah.

A 33-percent tip credit against the minimum wage was adopted in North Dakota. Tip credits were increased in Maryland, Ohio, South Dakota, Utah, and Vermont.

The labor commissioner in New Jersey was authorized to assess and collect civil penalties for violations of the minimum wage, wage payment, prevailing wage, industrial homework, and child labor laws, and the labor commissioner in Iowa was authorized to initiate civil actions to enforce any statute under his or her jurisdiction. In Oklahoma, reciprocal agreements may now be entered into with the Labor Department or corresponding agency in other States for the collection of wage claims and judgments (21 States now have this authority(3)).

Coverage of the Montana prevailing wage law was extended to construction projects financed in whole or part by tax-exempt industrial revenue bonds and enforcement provisions were strengthened in Hawaii, New York and Rhode Island. The dollar threshold amount for coverage was increased in Connecticut.

Family issues. Parental leave continued to be a subject of considerable legislative attention. New laws, which permit either parent to take an unpaid leave of absence for the birth or adoption of a child, or to care for a seriously ill child, parent, or spouse, were enacted for both the private and public sector in California, Hawaii (effective January 1, 1994 in the private sector), and Oregon, and for State employees in Florida. With certain exceptions, returning employees are to be reinstated to the same or a similar job under each of these laws. The Louisiana Civil Service Commission and the Montana Department of Administration are to develop parental leave policies for State employees. Existing laws were amended in Maine and Minnesota.

Child labor. Child labor was one of the most active subjects of State legislation in 1991, with recent trends continuing in: (1) increased concern over adverse effects of employment of children on their academic performance, (2) use of civil money penalties as an effective enforcement tool, and (3) restrictions on the employment of children in door-to-door sales. …