(I’ll tackle the changes that have been made to the CHRO in a post later today.)
As I’ve noted in prior posts (here, here and here), several employment law-related bills had already passed including: a bill regarding online privacy rights of employees (signed by Governor); a bill allowing double damages in wage/hour cases awaiting Governor’s signature); a bill protecting interns from discrimination and harassment (same); and a bill introducing labor history into school curriculum (same).
In the last days, however, a closely-watched bill that prohibits employers from enacting rules that prevent employees from sharing information about their wages, passed. It also awaits the Governor’s signature.
The bill has been amended since it was first introduced but still places additional restrictions on employers. As a result, employers should consider updating their policies and revisiting their approach to salary discussions.
As recapped by the General Assembly, the bill accomplishes the following:
This bill prohibits employers, including the state and municipalities, from taking certain steps to limit their employees’ ability to share information about their wages. Under the bill, such sharing consists of employees under the same employer (1) disclosing or discussing the amount of their own wages or other employees’ voluntarily disclosed wages or (2) asking about other employees’ wages. Specifically, the bill bans employers from (1) prohibiting their employees from such sharing; (2) requiring employees to sign a waiver or document that denies their right to such sharing; and (3) discharging, disciplining, discriminating or retaliating against, or otherwise penalizing employees for such sharing.
The bill allows employees to bring a lawsuit to redress a violation of its provisions in any court of competent jurisdiction. The suit must be brought within two years after an alleged violation. Employers can be found liable for compensatory damages, attorney’s fees and costs, punitive damages, and any legal and equitable relief the court deems just and proper.
The amendment to the bill that was passed limits an employee’s sharing of another employee’s wage information to information that (1) is about another of the employer’s employees and (2) was voluntarily disclosed by the other employee.
I’ve noted before that I think many of the provisions are duplicative of federal law and a concern that there isn’t a big public policy need to create a new cause of action here.
But it’s a bit too late for that. The Governor proposed this bill so he is very likely to sign it. The provisions go into effect on July 1, 2015. (Contrast that with other bills that go into effect on October 1, 2015.)
Another bill that passed in the closing days was House Bill 6707 which allows employers to fire employees for failing some off-duty drug tests without impacting their unemployment rating. It awaits the Governor’s signature. As recapped by the General Assembly:
This bill expands the circumstances under which a private-sector employer can discharge or suspend an employee without affecting the employer’s unemployment taxes. It creates a “non-charge” against an employer’s experience rate for employees discharged or suspended because they failed a drug or alcohol test while off duty and subsequently lost a driver’s license needed to perform the work for which they had been hired. (The law disqualifies a person from operating a commercial motor vehicle for one year if he or she is convicted of driving under the influence (DUI.)) In effect, this allows the discharged or suspended employee to collect unemployment benefits without increasing the employer’s unemployment taxes.
Overall, it was a busy year for the legislature. For employers, the next few months should keep you busy with a review of your existing policies and procedures to ensure compliance with these new laws.