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2017 Labor & Employment Laws: New Year, New Government, New Challenges

On January 1, 2017, employers across the nation will face a host of new or amended federal, state, and/or local labor and employment requirements. At the same time, there is uncertainty as to how the Trump Administration and Congress may alter those federal obligations.1 

With Congress gridlocked for much of the 2016 election year, the most significant labor and employment legislation and regulations were enacted at the state and municipal levels. Multiple states approved minimum wage increases, with built-in multi-year increases and annual adjustments. Marijuana liberalization – medical and recreational – occurred throughout the country.2 Although only a handful of equal pay measures were enacted in 2016, Massachusetts garnered significant media coverage when it imposed limits on inquiries about applicants’ prior salaries, continuing a slow but steady pay equity trend. New statewide paid sick leave measures were enacted, and numerous states expanded coverage or available rights under existing leave laws. The biggest compliance hurdle for multi-state and national employers – or even companies with statewide operations – may be simply keeping abreast of local law developments.

Some cities and counties have taken it upon themselves to shape workplace policy. In essence, local governments have become labor and employment law incubators; issues a decade ago labeled one-offs in liberal-leaning metropolitan areas have gained traction throughout the nation. Local governments continue to adopt minimum wage laws at an impressive clip, setting rates that exceed the state counterparts and far exceed their federal cousin. Although more states have joined the club, local paid sick leave laws far outnumber state measures and exist in states (currently) without corresponding provisions. Cities and counties are also the only jurisdictions that have enacted flexible scheduling laws in which certain retail and hospitality employees must notify new employees about their schedules, provide additional pay for schedule changes, and offer additional hours to part-time employees. In 2016, San Francisco became the first jurisdiction to mandate that employers supplement their employees’ wages when taking parental leave for new child bonding.   

Most 2016 laws have already taken effect; what remains are those scheduled to take effect sometime in 2017, which we highlight below. Although local and industry-specific laws may be listed below, these samples are included to highlight compliance challenges employers face. In addition, not all state and local minimum wage laws are included in this article. A complete discussion of minimum wage rate changes for 2017 and beyond can be found in a separate Littler Insight.3 Because the list does not every possibly applicable federal, state, and local law, employers may find it helpful to discuss with knowledgeable counsel which local, state, and/or federal laws will apply in 2017. At the federal level, the list below may change significantly with the incoming Administration

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Compliments of Littler – a member of the EACCNY