State Labor Legislation Enacted in 1992

Article excerpt

Trends in State labor legislation continued in 1992 to further restrict child labor, provide unpaid parental leave for the birth or adoption of a child or for the serious illness of a family member, prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace, and ban discrimination because of the use of lawful products outside the workplace.(1)

Legislation also was enacted conforming with provisions of the Federal Americans with Disabilities Act, and in the emerging areas of genetic testing and prohibition of employment discrimination because of sexual orientation. Restrictions on drug testing of workers and increases in State minimum wage rates, two issues that received major legislative attention in recent years, were addressed in only a few jurisdictions in 1992.

This article does not cover occupational safety and health, employment and training, labor relations, employee background clearance, or economic development legislation. Separate articles on unemployment insurance and workers' compensation are published in this issue of the Manthly Labor Review. Wages. Minimum wage was subject to considerably less activity in 1992 than in the last several years when it was one of the most active areas of State legislation. In the only new action, the Wisconsin minimum wage rate was increased administratively. Rates also increased in nine other jurisdictions as provided for in previous legislation.(2) While a majority of the States now match the Federal hourly rate of $4.25, as of January 1, 1993, higher rates will be in effect in Alaska, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Hawaft, Iowa, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, and the Virgin Islands.

Overtime pay policies for State employees in Utah were made to conform to overtime requirements of the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act. New overtime policies for certain public employees also were adopted in Mississippi and West Virginia.

The Hawaii prevailing wage law was amended to permit periodic increases in the prevailing wage rate during the life of a public works contract. The Maine Department of Labor is to study various ways of considering the value of fringe benefits provided by the employer in the calculation of the prevailing wage.

In Tennessee, the Commissioner of Labor was authorized to enter into reciprocal agreements with the labor department or corresponding agency in other States to collect wage claims and judgments; 22 States now have this authority.(3)

Other wage payment and collection measures included amendments in six States authorizing public employee payroll deductions for various purposes, changes in frequency of payment requirements in Arizona and Massachusetts, and a change in the amount of weekly earnings required for the executive, administrative, or professional employee exemption from various sections of the New York law. Guam strengthened enforcement of its wage payment law with measures including authorizing the Director of Labor to file a labor lien on an employer's property and order the bank accounts of an employer frozen; imposing a collection fee on employers to offset the costs of enforcement; and making private sector employers subject to damages of triple any wages due.

Family issues. Parental leave was once again an active area of legislative interest at the Federal and State levels. Vermont enacted a law permitting-- in the private or public sector-- an unpaid leave of absence for either parent for the birth or adoption of a child, for the employee's own serious illness, or to care for a seriously ill child, parent, or spouse. Alaska and Georgia enacted similar legislation for various public sector employees. The Minnesota law was amended, and studies of family leave or related issues were requested in Nebraska, New Mexico, and Virginia.

Child labor. As in the last several years, child labor was the subject of much interest and concern. Most of the measures enacted in 1992 reflected the trend toward making these laws more restrictive by limiting permissible hours of work, expanding applicability of certain provisions to include additional minors, or strengthening penalty provisions. …