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In the States 
 

HR Public Policy Issues Advancing in State Legislatures 
6/12/2009   
 
 

With summer just around the corner, many state legislatures have been busy passing bills that will impact the day-to-day operations of HR professionals. 

Many of these bills, particularly those focusing on such issues as expanded family leave and workplace weapons, have already become law.  Here’s a snapshot of the trends we’re seeing across the country:

Expansion of Family Leave

In Connecticut, Florida, and Indiana, legislators have approved and the respective governors have signed into law, legislation that expands the state family leave requirements for family members prior to or following the active duty deployment of a loved one.  The military leave laws, which are similar in nature to the expansion of FMLA leave at the federal level, which was passed by Congress back in January 2008.  These state laws provide unpaid time off to uniformed service members or their families to prepare for a deployment or returning from deployment, as well as to care for an injured service member. 

Domestic Partner Benefits

New laws were passed in Connecticut, Maine, and Washington this spring that will extend spousal rights and tax treatment for benefits to same-sex and domestic partners under state law. 

Weapons in the Workplace

Montana and Utah recently passed bills that limit an employer’s ability to ban weapons on company property.  While Montana’s bill does allow employers to continue limiting weapons in the workplace, it does lower the penalties for an unlicensed employee bringing a weapon onto company property.  Utah, on the other hand, enacted legislation earlier this year that prohibits an employer’s ability to restrict a concealed weapons permit holder from bringing a weapon onto the premise in a vehicle.  Similar legislation was not approved in Arizona, Missouri, South Carolina and Texas this year.

Expressing Milk at Work

Arkansas and North Dakota have joined the growing list of states that have passed legislation encouraging employers to provide break time and a suitable location for a new a mother to express milk while at work.

Mandating ‘E-Verify’ for Work Authorization

The growing trend at the state level to require all or certain employers to use the Federal government’s E-Verify employment verification system appears to have subsided, at least for the time being.  In fact, there is evidence that critics of E-Verify are gaining influence.  For example, a measure passed in Illinois discourages employers from using E-Verify.  It warns Illinois employers that E-Verify’s database “contains inaccurate information” and establishes a series of penalties for employers who fail to ensure all employees using the system are properly trained.  Similar anti-E-Verify legislation is progressing through the California State Assembly.  It would restrict an employer’s ability to participate in E-Verify unless required to do so by Federal law or regulation.

SHRM Government Affairs will continue monitoring state legislative activity in these and other areas that impact the workplace.  To see pending or recently-enacted legislation in your state, click HERE to access SHRM’s “State Pending Legislation Report” or the “State Enacted Legislation Report.”  

 

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The next issue of HR Issues Update will be published on Friday, June 26, 2009.