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In the States

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This year is shaping up to be one of the most active years for HR public policy on the state level. Already, numerous workplace measures across the country have become law, and many others are progressing down the road to enactment As a result, HR professionals who in past years have focused their attention on Washington need to also be wary of workplace legislation coming from their state capitols. 

  • Immigration reform—Governors in Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia either have signed into law or are expected to receive from their respective legislatures legislation that requires all or some employers to participate in the federal government’s E-Verify program for employment verification purposes. Especially following the recent Supreme Court’s validation of the 2007 Arizona law rescinding business licenses of organizations found in violation of U.S. immigration law, more states are expected to enact immigration reform legislation targeting the hiring practices of employers until Congress acts on similar legislation. [See related article. 
  • Workplace weapons—By the 4th of July, three states are expected to have enacted laws in 2011 restricting the rights of employers to enforce a workplace policy banning guns on company property. The governors of North Dakota and Indiana have already signed such legislation into law this year, and a similar bill (L.D. 35) is awaiting consideration by Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R). Bills are pending in other states such as New Hampshire, Iowa and Pennsylvania.
  • Gender identity—While mired in Congress, legislation that bans discrimination in the workplace based on a person’s gender identity or expression has been approved this year in Hawaii and Nevada and is poised to be enacted into law in Connecticut. Similar legislation failed in Florida, Kentucky and Maryland earlier this year.
  • Other HR issues of interest—Other public policy measures of note that have become law this year include S.B. 913 in Connecticut, requiring employers of 50 or more service worker employees to provide up to five days of paid sick leave per year; H.B. 87 in Maryland, limiting the use of credit checks in the hiring process; and H.B. 1432 in Washington, allowing private employers in the state to establish voluntary preferences in employment for veterans, widows or widowers of veterans, and spouses of certain disabled veterans.

To keep track of what HR legislation might be percolating in your state, click HERE to access SHRM’s Pending Legislation Report, which is searchable by subject area or by state.

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