With a lack of direction from the federal level, states and local municipalities have begun a trend to take matters into their own hands by creating a hodgepodge of employment laws and policies, making compliance particularly tricky for multi-state employers — and even employers within a state.
One glaring example is minimum wage. While the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, there have been both ballot and legislative trends to change it on state and local levels, says Jonathan Segal, a partner and managing principal at the law firm Duane Morris. And it’s moved beyond a partisan issue, he noted, with red, blue and purple states like Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota voting on measures in 2014; and Arizona, Colorado, Maine and Washington, D.C., having measures in 2016.
And the federal minimum salary requirements are still up in the air, with the proposed overtime rules under President Barack Obama doubling the minimum salary level for executive, administrative and professional exempt workers to $913 per week, or $47,476 a year stalling under the new administration.
“We had two extremes,” Segal noted of the jump in minimum wage from $455 per week. “I’m hoping that what will come out of this is a reasonable increase,” just not so quickly and not so much, as business need time to adjust, he added, speaking at the Society for Human Resource Management’s legislative conference Monday in Washington, D.C.
Despite different laws making those employer issues tricky, there, too, are challenges to having a one-size-fits-all kind of approach to salary matters. For example, he notes, the cost of living in New York City has a stark contrast to the cost of living in Biloxi, Miss.
New York State recently created a template to tackle hurdles, where even within a state there can be multiple salary ordinances.
In New York, there are three different minimum salaries based on region set to go up over six years, which began Dec. 31, 2016:
· In New York City: $850 per week
· Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester: $825 per week
· The rest of state: $750 per week
Eventually, that salary threshold will go up to $1,125 per week in NYC and the three surrounding counties over time.
“That kind of proposal may have appeal. It’s kind of savvy,” Segal says, “and can be a roadmap other states might look to.”
These multi-state cautionary tales go beyond just pay policies, Segal says, recommending employers stay vigilant on the different legislation surrounding, but not limited to:
· Ban the box policies
· Gender pay gap policies
· LGBTQ policies
· Predictable schedules policies
· Medical and recreational marijuana use policies
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