November 8th was Election Day. Who knows what impact a new Congress will have on your business; it’s too early to tell. But voters across the country approved a number of provisions on the state and local levels that could affect your workplace.
Here are some areas to explore in your location.
The majority of states have minimum wage rates higher than the $7.25 federal rate. On Election day, Nebraska voters approved a minimum wage increase, incrementally to $15.00 per hour by 2026. Nevada voters okayed a minimum wage increase to $12.00 per hour by July 1, 2024.
The District of Columbia eliminated tips credits that employers could use to satisfy their minimum wage requirements. The tipped minimum wage is phased out by 2027.
Impact for employers. Budget for minimum wage increases where applicable. Paycor has a list of minimum wage rates for 2023.
More than half the states have right-to-work laws which make it illegal to mandate union membership as a condition of employment. On Election Day, Tennessee voted to become a right-to-work state. In contrast, Illinois voters approved a constitutional amendment to bar any right-to-work law.
Impact for employers. Experts differ on the impact of right-to-work (RTW) laws. One scholarly paper from Harvard found such laws result in higher employment and some other positive effects for employees. From an employer perspective, the paper concluded that some workers may prefer to live and work RTW states; this could be beneficial for companies.
A number of states had abortion on the ballot on Election Day. Californians approved a measure prohibiting the state from interfering with an individual’s reproductive freedom. Two states—Michigan and Vermont—added the right to an abortion to their constitutions. Kentucky voters did not approve an amendment saying there was no right to an abortion.
Impact for employers. While federal law doesn’t require group health plans to cover the cost of an abortion, state laws may change this result for employers within their jurisdiction. If a group health plan covers the cost of an abortion, it must do so to the same extent as other health procedures.
Note: Regardless of state law on abortion, Title VII (federal law) prohibits employers from taking adverse action—firing, withholding promotions, barring benefits—based on an employee’s decision to have an abortion.
Legalization of cannabis
On Election Day, Maryland and Missouri became the latest states to approve the legalization of marijuana for recreational use. Missouri’s law, permitted the sale to those age 21 and older, is set to take effect on July 1, 2023. The same is true for Maryland’s law. Colorado voters approved the decriminalization of certain psychedelic plants and fungi. However, voters in Arkansas, North Dakota, and South Dakota said no to legalizing marijuana.
Impact for employers. The legalization of cannabis and other plants that can impair employee performance presents challenges for employers. Can you bar use in the workplace? While driving a company vehicle? Can you test employees for marijuana use? Can you terminate a worker who is high on the job? Are there different rules for medical marijuana use versus recreational marijuana? There are no easy answers because the rules vary by location. Check with an employment law attorney to create workplace practices that won’t violate the law. SHRM has a map showing marijuana laws and the 2022 workplace.
New laws in most cases cost employers more for compliance, so be prepared. Seek legal advice if you’re unsure of what to do.