State Labor Legislation Enacted in 2006: Minimum Wages, Workplace Security, Prevailing Wages, Equal Employment Opportunity, Wages Paid, Time off, Drug and Alcohol Testing, Child Labor, Human Trafficking, and Immigrant Protections Were among the Most Active Areas in Which Legislation Was Enacted or Revised during the Year

Article excerpt

States enacted a volume of labor legislation in 2006 which was significantly less than that enacted in 2005. The decrease was due in part to the fact that only 44 States and the District of Columbia met in regular session during 2006, while the remaining 6 States (Arkansas, Montana, North Dakota, Nevada, Oregon, and Texas) were not scheduled to meet in regular session. (All 50 States had met in regular session in 2005.) Several of the 6 States that did not meet in regular session did, however, convene in special sessions dedicated to various issues of special interest. At the time this article was submitted for publication, 42 of the 50 States, along with the District of Columbia, had enacted or amended labor legislation of consequence during 2006 in the categories that are tracked. Although they met in regular session, Mississippi and Nebraska did not enact significant legislation in the fields covered. (1) In addition, representatives from the Government of Guam responded by providing information regarding significant labor legislation enacted in their locality during the past year. Such information had not been received from Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands at the time this article was submitted.

Currently, more than 30 categories of labor legislation introduced and then enacted by the States are tracked by the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor: agriculture, child labor, State departments of labor, employee discharge, drug and alcohol testing, equal employment opportunity, employee leasing, employment agencies, family leave, garments, genetic testing, hours worked, human trafficking, immigrant protection, inmate labor, living wages, minimum wages, offsite work, overtime, plant closings, employee preference, prevailing wages, right to work, time off, unfair labor practices, wage payments and collection, whistleblowers, worker privacy, workplace security, workplace violence, and other labor-related issues that might be of general interest. Not every enacted piece of legislation that falls into one of these categories is discussed in this article; among the laws that are excluded are those which (1) amend existing State law, but are strictly technical in nature, (2) affect a limited number of individuals, (3) require or distribute a study of an issue, or (4) deal with funding related to an issue.

Volume aside, the legislation that was enacted by the States addressed a significant number of employment standards areas and included many important measures. Minimum-wage legislation was the "hot-button" issue this year, with an increasing number of States enacting laws that raised their required minimum-wage rates, thus continuing a trend of expanded State activity in this area. Issues such as workplace security, a variety of prevailing-wage issues, equal employment opportunity, wages paid, time off, drug and alcohol testing, child labor, human trafficking, and protection for immigrants were included in new or amended legislation enacted during 2006. The issue of human trafficking legislation has had increased activity in the States for the last couple of years. Some of the legislation enacted established a definition of human trafficking, other laws established minimum and maximum penalties for those convicted of human trafficking activities, and still others permitted victims of human trafficking to seek civil damages and remedies from individuals who subjected them to the unlawful trafficking.

This article does not cover legislation in the areas of occupational safety and health, employment and training, labor relations, employee background checks (except for those dealing with potential national security issues), economic security, and local living-wage ordinances.

As of January 1, 2007, State-required minimum-wage rates were higher than the Federal minimum-wage standard in 29 states and the District of Columbia. (By way of comparison, on January 1, 2006, 17 States and the District of Columbia had minimum-wage rates greater than the Federal standard. …