San Francisco Mulls Ban on Employee Cafeterias in New Office Buildings

San Francisco Mulls Ban on Employee Cafeterias in New Office Buildings

The cafeteria is a staple of contemporary corporate office buildings, and providing free or low-cost meals to employees is a common perk, particularly in the tech sector. Of course, if employees are eating breakfast, lunch, and even dinner in the same building where they work, that means they’re not patronizing local shops and restaurants. With that in mind, local lawmakers in San Francisco are proposing an amendment to the city’s zoning code to curb the proliferation of office cafeterias and drive more traffic to downtown eateries, the San Francisco Chronicle reports:

In an attempt to attract employees to local restaurants and businesses, Supervisors Ahsha Safaí and Aaron Peskin are co-sponsoring an ordinance that would ban “employee cafeterias” from new office buildings in the city. This comes as local retailers, particularly those downtown, complain of a drop in business as more companies offer their workers meals in private corporate cafeterias, Safaí said. …

An “employee cafeteria” is defined in the San Francisco health code as a space inside an office where employees are provided or sold tax-free food on a regular basis. These facilities are either operated by company employees or contractors. There are currently 51 such cafeterias around the city, Safaí said. The supervisors’ proposal would put the city at odds with the tech industry, which largely views free food as an essential perk to lure talent. …

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US Senate Votes Against Rules Promoting State ‘Auto-IRAs’

US Senate Votes Against Rules Promoting State ‘Auto-IRAs’

In a close vote, the US Senate on Wednesday passed a resolution scuttling a rule put in place by the Obama administration’s Labor Department to exempt automatic-enrollment, payroll-deducting IRA programs (“auto-IRAs”) created by states from the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), Investment News reported:

The bill now heads to the desk of President Donald J. Trump, who is expected to sign it into law. The Senate voted 50-49 in favor of H.J. Res. 66, the joint resolution overturning the Obama-era Department of Labor regulation. The vote was along party lines, with Republicans voting to overturn it. The bill wasn’t subject to a Democratic filibuster. …

If Mr. Trump signs the pending resolution, it would likely slow or halt development of auto-IRA programs by other states, at least a half dozen of which introduced auto-IRA legislation 2016 alone.

In March, the Senate passed another resolution by an identical margin, withdrawing the ERISA “safe harbor” rule for auto-IRA plans created by cities and counties. Auto-IRAs were widely expected to be prime targets of the Trump Administration’s deregulatory agenda. Ashlea Ebeling at Forbes explains how Wednesday’s resolution will affect the states:

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Equal Pay Day Highlights Slow Progress at Closing Gender Pay Gap in US

Equal Pay Day Highlights Slow Progress at Closing Gender Pay Gap in US

Equal Pay Day, a symbolic event marking how far into the year American women need to work to earn as much as their male peers did in the previous year, based on the current gender pay gap. Last year, Equal Pay Day was observed on April 12, so this year’s slightly earlier date reflects modest progress at closing that gap. According to the Pew Research Center’s latest analysis of the pay gap, US women earned 83 percent of what men earned in 2015, meaning they would have to work an additional 44 days to make as much as men did. While that’s still a substantial gap, the good news is that it is has narrowed significantly in recent decades, and is smaller among younger workers, standing at 90 cents to every man’s dollar among women in the 25-34 age demographic:

Why does a gender pay gap still persist? In our 2013 survey, women were more likely to say they had taken breaks from their careers to care for their family. These types of interruptions can have an impact on long-term earnings. Roughly four-in-ten mothers said that at some point in their work life they had taken a significant amount of time off (39%) or reduced their work hours (42%) to care for a child or other family member. Roughly a quarter (27%) said they had quit work altogether to take care of these familial responsibilities. Fewer men said the same. For example, just 24% of fathers said they had taken a significant amount of time off to care for a child or other family member.

Even though women have increased their presence in higher-paying jobs traditionally dominated by men, such as professional and managerial positions, women as a whole continue to be overrepresented in lower-paying occupations, and this may also contribute to gender differences in pay.

On the other hand, the pay gap is significantly wider for women of color—black women’s Equal Pay Day didn’t come until August last year.

Fast Company’s Lydia Dishman highlights some other recent studies that shed more light on the causes of the pay gap and how women are responding to it:

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New York City Set to Ban Salary History Inquiries for Private Employers

New York City Set to Ban Salary History Inquiries for Private Employers

Last November, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio issued an executive order barring city agencies from asking job candidates for their salary histories, in an effort to close gender and racial pay gaps among the roughly 300,000 people who work for the city government. While de Blasio did not have the power to impose such a ban on the private sector, the order was touted as a model for private employers to follow, and the city’s public advocate, Letitia James, submitted a bill to the city council last August that would enact a broader ban on salary histories.

According to James, that bill is now poised to pass, the Cut’s Dayna Evans reports:

James’s bill makes it illegal for businesses in both the public and private sectors from asking for salary histories from job applicants, and according to Thursday’s meeting it could pass as soon as Wednesday of next week, one day after Equal Pay Day. “Being underpaid once should not condemn you to a lifetime of inequity,” James said in her opening remarks. “This bill is not a panacea, by no means,” she said, but she acknowledged how important it was as a starting point.

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Baltimore City Council Set to Pass $15 Minimum Wage Bill

Baltimore City Council Set to Pass $15 Minimum Wage Bill

The Baltimore, Maryland, city council is expected to pass a bill today to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2022, a rate nearly $5 higher than in the surrounding counties, the Baltimore Sun reports:

With eight newly elected members — some of whom say their supporters expect dramatic change — the City Council has rallied around veteran lawmaker Mary Pat Clarke’s minimum wage proposal, which she argues will help some of Baltimore’s poorest residents escape poverty. …

The council, composed entirely of Democrats, gave preliminary approval to the legislation this month. Another affirmative vote would send the matter to the desk of new Mayor Catherine Pugh, who has yet to say whether she will sign or veto the legislation. Pugh, also a Democrat, pledged during her campaign to support a $15 minimum wage, but recently expressed concern about the bill’s impact on businesses.

Baltimore joins a growing number of states and municipalities that are moving to raise their pay floors, even as the Trump administration and the Republican-controlled Congress adopt a more employer-oriented approach to wage and hour issues at the federal level. Pugh says she plans to review the bill thoroughly before deciding whether to sign it, but even if she vetoes this bill, a minimum wage hike could still be in the cards for Baltimore in the near future: a poll conducted last year by Public Policy Polling found that 57 percent of Baltimoreans favored an increase to $15 an hour, while 79 percent supported an increase to either $12 or $15 an hour.

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The Many Benefits of Transit Benefits

The Many Benefits of Transit Benefits

In recent years, several US cities, including New York, Washington, DC, and San Francisco, have introduced mandates requiring large employers to offer tax-free transit benefits to employees who commute to work. “However,” SHRM’s Joanne Sammer writes in a primer on the subject, “mandates and tax considerations should not be the only drivers of transit benefit design”:

Asking employees what they need to better manage their commutes to work could yield some important insight into how to expand these programs to meet the needs of a broader array of employees. In doing so, employers can build a program that can both reduce payroll taxes and help to attract and retain a talented workforce.

A 2016 survey of 76 Canadian and U.S. employers conducted by Best Workplaces for Commuters, a public-private partnership that promotes transit benefits, and the Association for Commuter Transportation found that:

  • 69 percent of employers offering employee transit benefit programs reduced their need for parking spaces.
  • 53 percent reduced local traffic congestion.
  • 59 percent improved community relations.

Here at CEB, we’ve recently been hearing a lot of questions from our members about commuter benefits (how much is offered, what methods of commuting are covered, etc.), indicating that this is an area of increasing interest to employers.

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Blue States Push Ahead with New Overtime Rules

Blue States Push Ahead with New Overtime Rules

The controversial new overtime rule the US Labor Department issued last year during the Obama administration is currently tied up in court, and after the Republican victory in November’s elections, it is looking unlikely to survive in its current form. The rule, which would have immediately raised the salary threshold at which employees are exempt from overtime pay from $23,660 to $47,476 as of December 1 of last year, was blocked just before going into effect, so many employers had already made or executed plans to comply with it by increasing pay or reducing hours for some employees. Some of these plans will remain in place, partly because employers don’t want to renege on raises and partly because they expect the threshold to increase in the near future regardless, even with Republicans in control of Congress and the White House.

The alternative rules proposed by GOP lawmakers would raise the federal threshold less dramatically, phasing it in over a period of several years. At the state level, however, Democrats are looking to push ahead with new regulations similar or identical to the Obama administration’s rule in the statehouses they control. New York State enacted its own version of the overtime rule at the start of the new year, though it may also be challenged in court. Now, according to the Maryland Reporter, Democratic lawmakers in Annapolis are looking to do the same:

The bill, HB665, would increase the salary cap for white-collar and service workers currently exempt from overtime pay to $47,476 up from the current $23,660. That would be $913 per week, up from $455 weekly. “This salary level has not been changed since 2004 and is now less than the poverty level for a family of four,” said Del. Jimmy Tarlau, D-Prince George’s, in testimony before the House Economic Matters Committee on Tuesday. …

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