Academic journal article Monthly Labor Review

State Labor Legislation Enacted in 2005: Minimum Wage, Child Labor, Drug and Alcohol Testing, Equal Employment Opportunity, Human Trafficking, Overtime, Plant Closings, Prevailing Wage, Time off, Wages Paid, and Worker Privacy Were among the Most Active Categories of Labor Legislation Enacted or Amended during the Year

Academic journal article Monthly Labor Review

State Labor Legislation Enacted in 2005: Minimum Wage, Child Labor, Drug and Alcohol Testing, Equal Employment Opportunity, Human Trafficking, Overtime, Plant Closings, Prevailing Wage, Time off, Wages Paid, and Worker Privacy Were among the Most Active Categories of Labor Legislation Enacted or Amended during the Year

Article excerpt

A greater volume of labor legislation, concentrated in more than 30 tracked categories, was enacted in 2005, compared with the volume enacted in recent years. (1) Forty-eight of the 50 States, along with the District of Columbia, enacted labor legislation of consequence in the categories tracked. Iowa and Massachusetts were the only two States that had not done so at the time this article was written. Arkansas, California, Illinois, Maine, Montana, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia, and Washington all enacted above-average numbers of labor-related laws. (2)

The labor legislation that was enacted by the States addressed issues in a significant number of employment standards areas and included many important measures. Among the areas addressed were agriculture, child labor, State departments of labor, the discharge of employees, drug and alcohol testing, equal employment opportunity, employment agencies, employer leasing, family issues, genetic testing, handicapped workers, hours worked, human trafficking, immigrant protections, inmate labor, living wages, the minimum wage, offsite work, overtime, plant closings, prevailing wages, the right to work, time off, unfair labor practices, wages paid, whistleblowers, worker privacy, and workplace security. This article does not cover legislation on occupational safety and health, employment and training, labor relations, employee background checks (except for those dealing with security issues), economic security, and local living-wage ordinances. Areas that appeared the most in new or amended legislation enacted in 2005 were child labor, drug and alcohol testing, equal employment opportunity, human trafficking (an area of increasing interest), the minimum wage, the prevailing wage, time off, wages paid, and worker privacy.

At the present time, six States (3) do not have a minimum-wage requirement. As of January 1, 2006, minimum-wage rates were higher than the Federal minimum-wage standard in 17 States and the District of Columbia. Of the 44 States with minimum-wage laws, only two (Kansas and Ohio) have required rates lower than the Federal rate of $5.15 per hour.

The next section briefly summarizes, by category, a number of the legislative activities that resulted in laws enacted or amended by the individual State legislatures during the past year. Following this summary are more comprehensive descriptions of each State's legislative activities during the course of the year.

Minimum wages. The issue of minimum wages was a "hot-button" issue in the States this year. More than 140 minimum-wage bills were introduced in at least 42 States and the District of Columbia. In Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia, State minimum-wage rates increased either because of new legislation that was enacted, because of laws that were previously enacted and that contained scheduled increases, or because of previously passed ballot initiatives. Georgia enacted legislation placing limits on local government entities controlling or affecting wages or benefits paid by parties doing business with those entities. Hawaii now prohibits employment measures from being instituted that could create a substantial probability of reducing the full-time employment opportunities of persons other than those to whom a special minimum-wage rate has been authorized. Maine instituted a minimum salary in order for individuals to be considered bona fide executive, administrative, or professional employees. New Mexico established a separate hourly wage rate (combining minimum-wage and tip earnings) for employees who earn at least $30.00 per month in tips. Maine and Vermont passed legislation requiring the completion and submission of studies or analyses concerning living-wage issues.

Overtime wages. Alaska expanded the definition of the employment of persons considered as exceptions to the overtime regulations to include certain types of computer employment positions. …

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