States and localities across the country are continuing to push forward with measures aimed at protecting workers. As more and more local and state sick-leave and ban-the-box regulations go into effect, states and municipalities are now starting to focus on wage equality, stricter controls for employee scheduling, independent contractor protections, and paid parental leave.

Wage equality

Massachusetts recently became the first state to pass an equal-pay law that prohibits employers from asking about salary histories during the interview process. The purpose of this new law is to require employers to pay based on an employee’s worth and not their previous pay, which frequently reflects traditionally lower compensation levels for women. At the federal level, the Pay Equity for All Act of 2016 has been proposed to take the ban against asking for salary history nationwide. New York City, New Jersey, Washington DC, California, and Philadelphia are among many states and cities that also have jumped to propose similar legislation.

These efforts are on the heels of several states (California, New York, Massachusetts, Maryland) strengthening their existing equal pay laws to include wage transparency provisions, greater penalties, and greater enforcement support.

Control of scheduling and hours

Seattle recently became the second major city (following San Francisco) to regulate how large retailers and food-service employers schedule workers. This “secure scheduling” law is aimed at protecting workers from unpredictable work schedules and unreasonable hours. The requirements for this newly passed law include:

  • Good-faith estimates of hours
  • Post work schedules two weeks in advance
  • Provide at least 10 hours’ rest between closing and opening shifts
  • Give available hours to current part-time employees
  • Pay additional “predictable pay”

In addition to Seattle’s and San Francisco’s push for secure scheduling, San Jose’s newly passed ordinance also requires employers to offer additional hours of work to qualified, existing employees before turning to the hire of new employees, subcontractors, or temporary workers.

Protecting independent contractors

NYC passed the Freelance Isn’t Free Act, placing more protection on the work done by independent contractors. This marks a push to clarify contract deals and eliminate loopholes to avoid payment. The specific requirements that now must be covered in contracts include:

  • Itemization of all services the independent contractor will perform
  • Independent contractor’s rate and method of compensation
  • Date by which payment must be made

Moving in on paid parental leave

The U.S. remains one of the few industrialized countries to guarantee workers paid family leave. Despite the lack of federal law, there is a growing trend to provide this benefit in a state, city, and even company level. In April, San Francisco became the first city to establish a paid parental leave. It joins four states (New York, California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island) have passed paid family leave laws, and there are ongoing efforts in a number of other states. This article provides more details on current state programs and initiatives underway for paid family leave.