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In the States

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While most of the media’s focus has been on legislative developments in Washington, many state legislatures throughout the country have been busy debating issues that are critical for HR professionals.

Maryland State House – Annapolis, MD

Here are just a few examples of legislative developments in various state capitols … and which might be coming to your state soon:

Misclassification of Independent Contractors
Whether to classify a worker as an “independent contractor” or an “employee” might be confusing for some employers – and HR professionals who are often left to make the call.  Employers in Maryland need to take notice, the Maryland General Assembly has passed and Governor Martin O’Malley (D) is expected to sign into law “The Workplace Fraud Act of 2009,” which increases penalties for employers who misclassify employees as “independent contractors.”

Paid Sick Leave
While many groups (including SHRM) believe that the U.S. Congress may soon debate proposals to mandate paid sick leave, some states aren’t waiting for Washington to act.  Although different approaches are being proposed in various state legislatures, most would allow employees to take paid time off to care for themselves, a sick relative or to deal with incidents of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.  In most instances, the amount of leave provided ranges from five to seven days a year for full-time employees, with a lesser amount afforded part-time workers.  Some of the states that are debating paid leave legislation include: CA, CO, CT, IL, MA, MT, NC, OR, and VT.

Workplace/Parking Lot Gun Bills
On March 31, Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, Jr. signed into law S.B. 78, a bill requiring private employers to allow employees keep personal firearms in their private vehicles while parked on company property.  Utah becomes the 8th state to have a law on the books that would permit employees to bring firearms on work premises as long as they remain locked and out of plain view in the employee’s private vehicle.  Similar proposals were considered but not enacted in IN, NM, VA, and WV; however, other “weapons in the workplace”-type bills are still being debated in AL, AZ, IL, MI, MO, MT, NC, SC, TN and TX.

Immigration Reform/Mandated Use of E-Verify
While President Obama said that comprehensive immigration reform would be a priority during his first year in office, it is unlikely that Congress will have the time or interest to deal with this complex and divisive issue.  However, recognizing that immigration reform is a key concern at the state level, it remains an important issue for many state legislators.  One proposal that has surfaced in many states would require all or some employers (notably the public-sector and state contractors) to verify the employment eligibility of new hires using the U.S. government’s E-Verify system.  Last week, Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman signed legislation (LB 403) to do just that.  Other states that have recently considered this type of legislation include AL, AZ, AR, FL, ID, NV, OR, TN, and WV.

If you have any questions about these or other HR policy proposals pending in your state, please contact Bernard Coleman, SHRM’s State Affairs Specialist, or click HERE to view what HR legislation is pending in your state.


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The next issue of HR Issues Update will be published on Friday, May 1, 2009.

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