State Labor Laws: Changes during 1987

By Nelson, Richard R. | Monthly Labor Review, January 1988 | Go to article overview

State Labor Laws: Changes during 1987


Nelson, Richard R., Monthly Labor Review


State labor laws: changes during 1987

A greater volume of State labor legislation was enacted in 1987 than in any of the past several years.1 Laws of major significance were enacted in several employment standards subject areas, including the traditional fields of minimum wage protection and bans on employment discrimination, as well as in newer emerging areas of parental leave, employee drug testing, asbestos abatement, plant closings, and restrictions on workplace smoking. First time legislation was also enacted prohibiting the wrongful discharge of employees.

There was considerable minimum wage activity in 1987 with hourly minimum wage rates increased through new legislation or administrative action for all employers in nine States (Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, Texas, and Wisconsin) and for certain occupations in the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Also, rates rose in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont as the result of increases provided by previous enactments. In addition, a proposal to increase the California rate is under consideration.

In Hawaii and Minnesota, the 1987 legislation increased the rates above the $3.35 per hour Federal standard (in effect since 1981). The Federal rate is now exceeded in 10 jurisdictions (Alaska, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont). Bills to further increase the rate in Maine and to raise the Wisconsin rate above the Federal level passed the legislatures but were vetoed. North Carolina provided for matching increases up to $4 an hour in the State minimum if the Federal rate is increased before June 1, 1989. As of January 1, 1988, 24 jurisdictions had minimum wage rates at or near $3.35 per hour for some or all occupations. Rates are significantly lower than $3.35 in 11 States, and nine States do not have minimum wage laws.

Among other minimum wage and overtime actions, new exemptions from one or both of these provisions were enacted in Delaware, Illinois, and Montana. Montana also made the existing prohibition against tip credits specific within the minimum wage law and extended coverage to employees covered by the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act if the State minimum wage is higher. Amendments in the District of Columbia and Minnesota dealt with the recognition of subminimum wage rates for handicapped workers under certificates issued by the U.S. Department of Labor. Wyoming will require overtime pay on public works projects for hours worked in excess of 10 a day or 40 a week instead of after 8 hours a day, as was previously required.

Civil penalties for certain violations of the New York minimum wage and wage payment acts were extended to include violations concerning minimum wage standards for farmwork and to be authorized for nonmonetary violations, including those involving recordkeeping, posting, and wage statements. In other legislation involving the collection of wages due, the ceiling was removed on acceptance of wage claims by the Utah Industrial Commission, and the Commission was authorized to enter into reciprocal agreements with other States for the collection of wage claims; the Director of Labor and Industries in Washington may now bring legal action to collect unpaid minimum wages and prevailing wages for all underpaid employees, and was authorized to conduct investigations to ensure employer compliance with the prevailing wage, minimum wage and wage payment--wage collection acts where a violation is suspected; and Rhode Island specified that vacation pay accrued by workers separated after 1 year's service, will become wages due. New Jersey enacted a Construction Workers' Fringe Benefit Security Act to ensure payments to fringe benefit funds and New Hampshire amended reporting requirements under a similar law.

The issue of equal pay for jobs of comparable value in State government was addressed by a few States in 1987. …

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