State Labor Legislation Enacted in 1998

Article excerpt

Increases in minimum wage rates, prevailing wage changes, child labor revisions, workplace surveillance regulations, and bans on employment discrimination were major subjects of State labor legislation

A number of major pieces of State labor legislation were adopted in 1998, despite an unusually light volume of enactments.(1) The greatest areas of concentration were in the traditional subjects of minimum wage protection, prevailing wage, and the regulation of child labor. Legislation also was enacted on the emerging issue of employee monitoring, and on other contemporary issues such as balancing work and family, granting immunity for disclosure of work performance information, and banning employment discrimination because of genetic test results. Some significant ballot measures and court decisions also have had an impact on employment standards.

This article provides a summary of significant enactments in labor legislation. It does not, however, cover occupational safety and health, employment and training, labor relations, employee background clearance, and economic development legislation. Articles on unemployment insurance and workers' compensation appear elsewhere in this issue of the Monthly Labor Review,

Wages. Minimum wage was an important area of State labor legislation and activity again this year, although not as active as in the past few years when it dominated State legislative activity. New legislation increased minimum wage rates in Connecticut, Indiana, and Kentucky.(2) Rates also increased in West Virginia, as the result of a previous law, and in California and Oregon, as the result of ballot measures approved in 1996.

A Washington ballot measure approved in the November general election increases the minimum wage rate in that State. As a result of this measure, beginning January 1,2001, Washington will be the first State in the Nation to have a rate that is annually adjusted for inflation.

As of January 1, 1999, minimum wage rates higher than the Federal standard are in effect in Alaska, California, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.

Major changes were made in the way minimum wage rates will be established in Puerto Rico.

Indiana will now require the payment of overtime, while an overtime pay requirement was eliminated in Idaho. Laws were adopted in Hawaii and Washington specifying that airline industry employers are not required to pay overtime to employees who voluntarily trade shifts.

Thirty-one States and the Federal Government currently have public works prevailing wage laws. This year, prevailing wage bills were introduced in nearly half of the States. Reversing the trend of recent years to weaken these laws, most of those measures adopted in 1998 strengthened laws.

Maine will now require payment of prevailing benefits as well as prevailing wages. Coverage of the Maine law was also expanded to include projects let by the Turnpike Authority. Delaware passed laws pertaining to the maintenance of payroll information, and excusing the Department of Labor from court costs for certain prevailing wage cases. The Department was also authorized to join claimants in one action when filing suit.

In New York, underpayments may now be recovered from successors, subsidiaries, principals, and others related to public works building service contractors who have violated the prevailing wage law. Employers in Hawaii may be penalized if they fail to timely submit records and information or if they interfere with or delay an investigation. Penalty provisions were strengthened in Massachusetts.

The Kentucky law regulating the awarding of public contracts by the State was amended to add requirements for subcontractors to those already in place for contractors. California revised provisions providing for debarment of contractors and subcontractors from work on public works contracts following violations of the prevailing wage law. …