After Referenda, Legislators Look to Water Down Minimum Wage Hikes

After Referenda, Legislators Look to Water Down Minimum Wage Hikes

In last November’s US elections, voters in Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and Washington State passed ballot initiatives to raise the minimum wage in these states to between $12 and $13.50 per hour by 2020, while wage floors are also rising in other states and cities by legislative means, as part of an overall trend we are seeing of state and local governments raising their own pay standards. Yet those who voted for a higher minimum wage at the polls in November may not have the last word on the matter, Bloomberg reports, as some lawmakers in those states are trying to weaken or override the measures approved by voters:

In Washington, where voters opted for a $13.50 an hour minimum wage by 2020, and Maine, where it was set to rise to $12 that year, state legislators have proposed a battery of bills to water down the increases. The city council in Flagstaff, Arizona has done the same to a local initiative that would have boosted the wage floor to $12 this year, sooner than the statewide increase. …

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Arizona Study Casts Doubt on Effectiveness of Mandatory E-Verify

Arizona Study Casts Doubt on Effectiveness of Mandatory E-Verify

As part of his administration’s overhaul of US immigration policy, President Donald Trump pledged on the campaign trail to enforce a mandate on employers throughout the country to use the Department of Homeland Security’s E-Verify system to check that their employees are legally authorized to work in the country. Arizona has had mandatory E-Verify since 2008, however, and a new study from the Public Policy Institute suggests that this policy hasn’t had the intended effect in terms of increasing job opportunities for legal residents, CNN Money’s Octavio Blanco explains:

While the number of undocumented workers fell dramatically in the years following the mandate, the number of opportunities that were made available for legal residents didn’t materialize at nearly the same rate, said researchers Magnus Lofstrom and Sarah Bohn, who conducted the study for the San Francisco-based think tank.

Lofstrum and Bohn examined E-Verify’s impact on Arizona’s workforce between 2007 and 2009 and found that the state’s undocumented population declined by about 92,000 people, or about 17%, as workers left the state to look for jobs. Many of the workers who remained, however, were pushed into so-called “informal employment,” working as day laborers or independent contractors in fields like construction, lawn care and janitorial work. The self-employment rate for unauthorized, less-skilled men doubled from 8% to 16% between 2007 and 2009, the researchers found.

The state government also appears reluctant to go after employers, meaning that enforcement has often been spotty:

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Arizona and Washington State Pass Paid Sick Leave Mandates

Arizona and Washington State Pass Paid Sick Leave Mandates

Last week’s elections across the US brought major changes to the law in several states as voters passed referenda raising the minimum wage and legalizing either medicinal or recreational use of marijuana, both of which have consequences for employers. In addition to these, Arizona and Washington voted to join the small but growing number of states that require employers to provide paid sick leave. SHRM’s Lisa Nagele-Piazza gives an overview of what these states’ referenda mean for employers:

Beginning on July 1, 2017, businesses in Arizona with 15 or more employees must provide workers with up to 40 hours of accrued annual paid sick leave. Businesses with fewer employees will have to provide 24 hours. In each scenario, employees will accrue the time at a rate of one hour per 30 hours worked until they reach the cap. …

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Several States Raise Minimum Wage, Relax Marijuana Laws

Several States Raise Minimum Wage, Relax Marijuana Laws

The upset victory of Donald Trump in the presidential race was the biggest change to come out of Tuesday’s elections in the US, but it was not the only decision made at the polls with major consequences for business and HR. Voters in several states participated in referenda or ballot initiatives whose outcomes will affect hiring, compensation, and other HR policies.

Marijuana Legalization Moves Ahead

California, Massachusetts, and Nevada all passed ballot measures legalizing recreational marijuana use. Arizona voters rejected a legalization initiative while another, in Maine, is too close to call, so the state is looking at absentee ballots (Update: Maine’s ballot initiative ultimately passed by a narrow margin and went into effect January 30). Measures to legalize the use of medical marijuana succeeded in Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota, while Montana liberalized its existing law on medical marijuana. After Tuesday’s votes, 28 states plus Washington, DC have legalized marijuana use for some purpose, either medical or recreational.

This national tide may have an impact on employers’ drug policies. In short, because marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, employers are still on fairly solid legal ground to maintain zero-tolerance policies, but these policies need to be communicated clearly and we may see more litigation over medical marijuana-related disability claims. Employment lawyers tell SHRM’s Lisa Nagele-Piazza that employers in states where medical use has been legalized may want to specifically address it in their drug policies:

Particularly if they are card holders for medical marijuana, employees may think that because it is legal, they are protected, [Danielle Urban, an attorney with Fisher Phillips,] noted. However, only a few states actually provide employment protections for card carriers. Employers should also note that some states, like California, have very restrictive drug-testing rules, [Oagletree Deakins attorney Austin] Smith said. Therefore, if employers want to test employees more often, they need to know what limits their state puts on drug testing.

So Do Minimum Wages

Arizona, Colorado, and Maine all passed referenda raising the minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020, and Washington state voted to raise its pay floor to $13.50 an hour by the same year. A South Dakota referendum that would have lowered the minimum wage for employees under 18 from $8.55 to $7.50 failed decisively. Bloomberg’s Jordan Yadoo explains the economic debate that motivated South Dakota to vote on the question:

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