State Labor Legislation Enacted in 2002; Mininum Wage Rate Increases, Limits on Overtime for Nurses, Paid Family and Medical Leave, Workplace Security, and Military Re-Employment Rights Were among Major Legislation Enacted during the Year. (State Labor Laws, 2002)

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States enacted important labor legislation in 2002 covering a variety of employment standards. Minimum wage rates were increased in a number of States, a first-in-the-Nation law provided for paid family and medical leave, changes were made in several child labor laws including a revised prohibition on door-to-door sales, and several States enacted legislation to protect the jobs of reserve or guard members returning from active duty.

Trends continued with additional States placing limits on mandatory overtime for nurses, banning employment discrimination on the basis of genetic testing, providing immunity from liability for furnishing information on job performance, providing job protection for crime victims and victims of sexual assault, and addressing issues of workplace violence and security.

Six State legislatures did not meet in regular session in 2002, and some met only for budget purposes. (1)

This article summarizes significant State labor legislation enacted in 2002. It does not, however, cover legislation on occupational safety and health, employment and training, labor relations, employee background clearance, economic development, and local living wage ordinances. Articles reporting on changes in unemployment insurance and workers' compensation laws appear elsewhere in this issue.

Wages. Minimum wage rates increased as the result of new legislation in Alaska and Connecticut and as the result of a successful ballot measure in Oregon. Rates also increased in California, Connecticut, Hawaii, and Maine as the result of previous laws, and in Washington as the result of a prior ballot measure. Alaska became the first State to provide for an indexed minimum wage rate through legislation (the Washington rate is indexed as the result of a 1998 ballot measure). The Oregon initiative also provides for an indexed rate.

As of January 1, 2003, minimum wage rates were higher than the Federal standard in Alaska, California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. Of the 43 States with minimum wage laws, only 3 have rates lower than the Federal rate of $5.15 per hour. (2)

A law prohibiting political subdivisions from establishing a minimum wage that exceeds the Federal minimum wage was enacted in South Carolina.

Hawaii increased the amount of guaranteed monthly compensation required to exempt an individual from minimum wage, overtime, and recordkeeping requirements, and New York amended its minimum wage and payment of wages laws to cover limited liability companies.

Prevailing wage laws pertaining to public works construction projects currently exist in 32 States and the Federal Government. Several measures were enacted in 2002 with some strengthening and with others weakening existing legislation. Laws enacted in New Jersey and West Virginia, and ballot measures approved in California, expanded coverage to include additional authorities or agencies. A separate measure amended the California law to provide a new exemption. The dollar threshold amount for coverage was increased administratively in Wisconsin.

A law was enacted in Guam providing for prevailing wages and benefits under service and other contracts let by the Territory.

Other significant actions include issuance of an executive order in New Jersey authorizing project labor agreements, provision in Connecticut for prevailing wage rates to be adjusted annually, provision in Maryland for contractors and subcontractors to be jointly and severally liable for payment violations, and the adoption of more comprehensive regulations in Montana.

Amendments were also made concerning debarment provisions in New York, frequency of surveys in Washington, contractor compliance requirements in Hawaii, and hearing and recordkeeping requirements in Illinois.

A new equal pay law was adopted in Vermont, and Wyoming authorized a study of the disparity of wages and benefits. …