Employment law conceptMinimum Wage Updates

On January 17, 2019, New Jersey’s governor and state legislators agreed to a deal that will raise the state’s minimum wage to $15.00 by 2024. The current minimum wage in New Jersey is $8.85 an hour.  Under the new law, the state’s minimum wage will increase to $10.00 an hour on July 1, 2019, and to $11.00 on January 1, 2020, with a steady one-dollar increase occurring every January 1 until 2024.

In addition, on February 19, 2019, Illinois’s governor signed a law that will raise the state’s minimum wage to $15.00 by 2025.  The current minimum wage in Illinois is $8.25 an hour, but under the new law it will increase to $9.25 an hour on January 1, 2020, and $10.00 on July 1, 2020. The minimum wage will then increase by one dollar per year every January 1 until 2025

Further, the City Council of Fremont, California unanimously voted to increase its minimum wage to $15.00 per hour by July 1, 2020 for employers with more than 26 employees and July 1, 2021 for employers with 25 of fewer employees.  Similarly, Pasadena, California’s City Council voted to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15.00 an hour by July 1, 2020 for larger employers and July 1, 2021 for smaller employers.

Lastly, on March 1, 2019, the minimum wage in both the city and county of Santa Fe, New Mexico increased to $11.80 per hour.

Michigan Paid Sick Leave

As we previously reported here, Michigan’s new Paid Medical Leave Act is scheduled to go into effect soon.  Employers with non-exempt employees working in Michigan have until March 29, 2019 to get their policies and recordkeeping systems ready for the new law.

New York City Prohibits Hair Discrimination; Requires Employers to Provide Lactation Room  

The New York City Commission on Human Rights recently released legal enforcement guidance regarding race discrimination on the basis of hair. The guidance specifies that New York City employers with four or more employees cannot discriminate against Black employees by prohibiting “twists, locs, braids, cornrows, Afros, Bantu knots, or fades which are commonly associated with Black people.”  Further employers cannot have grooming policies that require employees to alter the state of their hair to conform to the company’s appearance standards (including requiring employees to straighten or relax their hair), and policies cannot ban hair that extends a certain number of inches from the scalp, thereby limiting Afros.  Covered employers that choose to enact grooming or appearance policies should be aware that they cannot prohibit or discourage such hairstyles, either explicitly or implicitly, and cannot discriminate against and/or harass Black employees based on their hair texture or hairstyle.

As we previously mentioned here, effective March 18, 2019, New York City employers with four or more employees must provide a sanitary “lactation room” for employees needing to express milk.  The room cannot be a restroom, and both the lactation room and a refrigerator suitable for breast milk storage must be within a close proximity to the work area of the employee using it.  The lactation room must have an electrical outlet, a chair, a surface on which to place a breast pump and other personal items, and nearby access to running water. Further, by the same date, covered New York City employers must implement a written lactation accommodation policy, which must state that employees have the right to request a lactation room and identify the process for requesting a lactation room.

New Jersey Expands Employee Leave and Benefits Laws

On February 19, 2019, New Jersey’s governor signed Assembly Bill 3975, which significantly broadens the reach of the New Jersey Family Leave Act (“NJFLA”) and the New Jersey Temporary Disability Benefits Law (“NJTDBL”). This new law imposes additional obligations on smaller employers who were previously exempt from the NJFLA.  Moreover, the law amends the state’s Security and Financial Empowerment (“SAFE”) Act by granting paid family temporary disability leave benefits for covered time off involving domestic and sexual violence.

The new law extends coverage of the NJFLA to employers of 30 or more employees beginning June 30, 2019 (previously only covered employers with 50 or more employees).  Additionally, the following changes to the NJFLA are effective immediately:

  • The law expands the once restrictive definition of “family member” to also include parent-in-law, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, domestic partner, or any other blood relative as well as any other individual with which the employee has a close, family-equivalent relationship; the new definition matches that in other New Jersey leave laws;
  • The law revises the definitions of “family leave,” “child,” and “parent” to provide broader protections for foster parents and people who become parents through a gestational carrier;
  • The law broadens the leave period for employees taking reduced-schedule FLA leave from 24 consecutive weeks to 12 consecutive months; and
  • The law requires employers to allow employees to take intermittent leave for birth or adoption of a child, placement of a foster child or the birth of a child via a gestational carrier.

Further, the new law expands the monetary benefits that are available under the NJFLA and the NJTDBL for leaves beginning on or after July 1, 2020. First, the law will increase the number of weeks for which benefits are available from 6 to 12 weeks in any 12-month period, and will increase the amount of intermittent leave available for covered employees from 42 to 56 days. In addition, employees who take leave under the NJTDBL will be entitled to 85% of their average weekly wage, subject to a maximum of $860 per week.

Finally, as the new law provides for penalties for failure to post required notices and provides money for public outreach to inform employees of their rights, New Jersey employers should promptly review and update their leave policies to comply with these new requirements.