Election Day has come and gone bringing several newly passed state ballot measures that will have a direct impact on the workplace. Most notably, voters continue to favor the legalization of medical and recreational marijuana, the increase of minimum-wage levels, and support for paid sick leave.

Marijuana Legalization

In many states, attitudes seem to be changing regarding marijuana. On this past Election Day, the people of Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota approved medicinal use of marijuana. California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada, where medicinal use is already legal, voted to permit recreational use for ages 21 and older. This article includes a visual map on the updated marijuana law landscape across the country.

Minimum-Wage Hike

All measures favoring state-wide minimum-wage increases in this year’s election passed. Arizona, Colorado, and Maine will see a gradual increase to $12 an hour by the year 2020. Washington’s minimum wage will reach $13.50 by 2020. In South Dakota, voters did not approve a measure that would lower the minimum wage for the 18 and under workforce. In total, 14 states will have minimum wage increases as of January 1, 2017. This posting summarizes state minimum wage requirements.


The U.S. currently does not guarantee paid sick time for all workers on a federal level, leaving it up to states and municipalities to pass legislation, or to employers to decide on a voluntary basis whether to provide this benefit. An ever-increasing number of cities and states are opting to make sick days mandatory. Last week, ballot measures were passed in Arizona and Washington to become the sixth and seventh states to have statewide mandatory sick leave laws. A number of municipalities and counties also have enacted sick leave laws of the last several years. This summary provides the pertinent details for each. As of January 1, 2017, federal contractors are now required to provide sick leave. Details can be found on the Department of Labor’s wage and hour website.

While progress may be slow at the federal level, states and localities continue to push forward on these initiatives. As these laws come into effect, it is important for employers to review their policies and make updates to comply with these new regulations. Savvy business leaders in states that have not yet been affected by these regulations are keeping a pulse on employment law trends. This enables them to adequately prepare ahead of time so they can minimize the impact on their business rather than being forced to make drastic changes after these laws are passed in their region.