State Labor Legislation Enacted in 2003: Minimum Wage Rates, Child Labor, Employment Discrimination, Crime Victim Protection, and Military Re-Employment Rights Were among Major Legislation Enacted or Revised during the Year

By Nelson, Richard R.; Fitzpatrick, John J., Jr. | Monthly Labor Review, January 2004 | Go to article overview

State Labor Legislation Enacted in 2003: Minimum Wage Rates, Child Labor, Employment Discrimination, Crime Victim Protection, and Military Re-Employment Rights Were among Major Legislation Enacted or Revised during the Year


Nelson, Richard R., Fitzpatrick, John J., Jr., Monthly Labor Review


A greater volume of labor legislation was enacted in 2003 than in recent years, despite the fact that budget concerns were a priority for many States. (1) California, Illinois, and Texas enacted particularly large numbers of laws.

Legislation enacted addressed several areas of employment standards and included many important measures: increased minimum wage rates; expanded coverage of family and medical leave laws; additional prohibitions on children working in hazardous occupations; and new measures addressing workplace security.

Additional States provided leave for employees who are crime victims; protected the earnings of children working in the entertainment industry; eased regulation of the private employment agency industry; and protected the jobs of reserve and guard members returning from military active duty.

New protections from discrimination were enacted for transgender individuals, prohibitions were enacted on the purchase of goods produced through forced labor, and a California law requires employers to provide healthcare benefits.

This article summarizes significant State labor legislation enacted in 2003. 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 separately in this issue. Wages. Minimum wage rates increased as the result of new legislation in Illinois, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and Vermont; as a result of previous laws in Alaska, Connecticut, Hawaii, and Maine; and as a result of prior ballot measures in Oregon and Washington. In Alaska, a 2002 enactment that provided for indexed rate increases was repealed.

As of January 1, 2004, minimum wage rates were higher than the Federal standard in Alaska, California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. Of the 43 States with minimum wage laws, only 2 have rates lower than the Federal rate of $5.15 per hour. (2)

Santa Fe, New Mexico, and San Francisco, California, adopted local minimum wage ordinances. Conversely, a new Texas law provides that State law supersedes a wage established in an ordinance, and, in Florida, political subdivisions are barred from establishing, or otherwise requiting an employer to pay a minimum wage, other than a Federal minimum wage, or applying a Federal minimum wage to those wages exempt from Federal coverage.

Enactments in Utah and Vermont changed the amount of the tip credit authorized for employers to meet a portion of the minimum wage.

New minimum wage and overtime law exemptions were enacted in Arkansas and Montana, and a new overtime exemption was enacted in Alaska.

A Maine law permits State employees to be awarded compensatory time in lieu of overtime pay.

Prevailing wage laws pertaining to public works construction projects currently exist in 32 States and the Federal Government. (3) This year, as usual, a mix of laws was enacted, with some strengthening and with others weakening existing laws.

The threshold amount for coverage was increased by legislation in Maine and administratively in Ohio and Wisconsin. Exemptions from coverage were enacted in Montana and Oregon, while law coverage was expanded in California, Illinois, Nevada, and New Jersey.

The Montana law was amended to require that additional trades be included in the prevailing wage survey, and the Washington Department of Labor is to establish a goal of conducting surveys for each trade every 3 years.

Among other developments, primary contractors are to be identified in Alaska; new recordkeeping requirements were enacted in Illinois; penalties for violation of prevailing wage laws were increased in Nevada and revised in California; and the Maryland Advisory Council on Prevailing Wage Rates was abolished. …

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State Labor Legislation Enacted in 2003: Minimum Wage Rates, Child Labor, Employment Discrimination, Crime Victim Protection, and Military Re-Employment Rights Were among Major Legislation Enacted or Revised during the Year
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