State Labor Legislation Enacted in 2004: Laws concerning Worker Privacy, Workplace Violence and Security, Prevailing Wages, Drug and Alcohol Testing, Employee Discharge, Child Labor, Hours Worked, Wage Payments, and Plant Closings Were among Major Pieces of Legislation Enacted or Revised during the Year
Fitzpatrick, John J., Jr., Monthly Labor Review
States enacted a lesser volume of labor legislation (1) in 2004 than in recent years, due, in part, to an increased focus on budget issues. Forty-four States and the District of Columbia met in regular session, while the remaining States (Arkansas, Montana, North Dakota, Nevada, Oregon, and Texas) were not scheduled to meet in regular session this year. However, some of the latter did meet in special sessions dedicated to various issues. California, Connecticut, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Virginia enacted a significant number of laws having to do with labor issues. (2)
Volume aside, the legislation that was enacted by the States addressed a significant number of employment standards areas and included many important measures. Worker privacy was the "hot-button" issue of the year, with more than 30 pieces of legislation enacted, while issues such as workplace violence and security, a variety of prevailing-wage issues, drug and alcohol testing in the workplace, the discharge of employees, child labor issues regarding hours of work permitted, payment of wages to employees, and plant closings were all included in new or amended legislation enacted in 2004. The legislation covers 23 separate labor-related areas of interest.
As of January 1, 2005, minimum-wage rates were higher than the Federal standard in Alaska, California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. Of the 43 States with minimum-wage laws, only 2 (Kansas and Ohio) have rates lower than the Federal rate of $5.15 per hour. (3)
This section briefly summarizes, by category, a number of the legislative activities that resulted in laws enacted or amended by the various State legislatures during the past year. Following the summary are more comprehensive descriptions of each State's legislative activities over the year.
Minimum wage. States with previously scheduled increases in the minimum wage for January 1, 2005, were Illinois, with a new rate of $6.50 per hour; Oregon, $7.25 per hour; Vermont, $7.00 per hour; and Washington State, $7.35 per hour. Subsequently, the District of Columbia ($6.60 per hour) and New York State ($6.00 per hour) passed legislation that also made the new rates effective on January 1, 2005. Earlier in 2004, Maine raised its minimum wage to $6.35 per hour. Florida voters approved a ballot measure creating a minimum wage applying to all employees in the State covered by the Federal minimum wage. The State minimum wage will start at $6.15 per hour, with an effective date that is yet to be determined. Nevada voters also approved a minimum-wage ballot measure, requiring employers to pay employees $5.15 per hour worked if the employer provides health benefits or $6.15 per hour worked if the employer does not provide health benefits. Because the ballot issue in Nevada was a constitutional amendment, voters will have to approve the measure again in 2006 in order for it to take effect. The Common Council of Madison, Wisconsin, enacted a local ordinance raising the minimum wage to $5.70 per hour effective January 1, 2005, with additional raises scheduled for several years thereafter.
The stipulated salary for those individuals classified as bona fide executive, administrative, or professional employees in Alaska is now required to be 2 times the State minimum wage for the first 40 hours of employment each week.
Connecticut amended the percentages of the minimum wage that could be recognized as gratuities for tipped employees in the hotel/restaurant and other industries, while Massachusetts placed restrictions on employers' handling and distribution of tips or service charges provided directly to employees or via credit card payment of the customer's bill.
Georgia preempted all locally established wage rates or employment benefits requiring employers to pay employees or provide benefits not otherwise required under Federal or State law. …