Tag Archives: New York

Medical Marijuana Update: Colorado Supreme Court Upholds That Employers May Enforce Drug Free Workplace Policies

Contributed by Michael Wong

On June 15, 2015, the Colorado Supreme Court upheld the appellate court’s ruling that employers can lawfully terminate employees for use of medical marijuana outside of work in compliance with a drug free workplace policy in Coats v. Dish Network, 2015 CO 44 (June 15, 2015).

This is an important decision for employers as many of the state laws “legalizing” marijuana for medical and/or recreational use have been recognized as providing protections from criminal laws, but are unclear as to how much, if any, civil or employment protections are provided to employees under those laws and other state laws.

In Coats v. Dish Network, an employee in an administrative position tested positive during a random drug test. The employee advised the employer that he had a state-licensed medical marijuana card and only used marijuana at home outside of work. After reviewing this information the employer terminated the employee for violating its drug free workplace policy.

The employee then sued the employer under Colorado’s Lawful Activities Act, Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 24-34-402.5 (West), which prohibits employers from disciplining or terminating an employee for lawful activities engaged in off the premises of the employer during non-working hours. Colorado’s Lawful Activities Act is similar to many other state laws, including Illinois, California, Minnesota and New York, which were primarily enacted to prohibit employers from having policies that would prohibit employees from engaging in lawful activities, such as tobacco and alcohol use, outside of work.

The Colorado Supreme Court held that the Colorado Lawful Activities Act only protected outside-of-work activities that are lawful under both Colorado law and federal law. As such, any activities that are unlawful under federal law, like the use of marijuana (medically or recreationally), are not protected under Colorado’s Lawful Activities Act.

This is important, as Colorado employers are able to enforce drug free workplace policies without violating Colorado’s Lawful Activities Act. Additionally, it provides employers in other states some indication that their state courts may follow the Colorado Supreme Court’s lead and find that employers may still enforce drug free workplace policies without violating their state laws. It should be noted that the Colorado Supreme Court relied in part on the federal classification of marijuana as a Schedule I drug that has no medically accepted use, a high risk of abuse and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision, and that a change to the federal classification of marijuana could impact this decision.

The takeaway from the Coats v. Dish Network decision for employers is that until there is clear statutory language or case law stating otherwise, employers are able to enforce their drug free workplace policies. That being said, since this is an issue in which case law is still developing and each state has different statutory language and regulations, employers should consult with legal counsel in addressing these types of issues prior to making any discipline or termination decision.

With A New Year Comes New Rules! Here’s Your State Employment Law Update

Contributed by Heather Bailey

California: Effective January 1, 2015, the required paid for rest periods are considered “hours worked” by the employee, and, consequently, are not subject to wage deductions by the employer.  (California also has special requirements for making any deductions from their paychecks that you should be aware of before making any).

Colorado: Minimum wage rose to $8.23 per hour on January 1 

Connecticut: As of the first of the year, CT’s minimum wage went to $9.15 per hour.  Are you aware there is a paid sick leave law in CT?  If not, be sure to contact your employment counsel or the blog author as some changes were made beginning January 1st.

DCAs of December 17, 2014, employers cannot ask applicants certain information about their criminal backgrounds and any rescinding of a conditional offer of employment must be backed up with a legitimate business reason.  Moreover, employers are required to reasonably accommodate pregnant women when their workload is affected by pregnancy, child birth and child-related medical conditions (i.e., breast feeding).

Massachusetts:  Effective January 1, minimum wage increased to $9 per hour.  July 1, 2015, employers with 11 or more employees will be required to offer up to 40 hours of paid sick leave to employees.

MarylandMaryland’s minimum wage rose to $8.00 as of January 1st.

Missouri: Effective January 1, all equal-priority garnishments should now be prioritized by date of receipt.

New Jersey: NJ joined the other states starting March 1, 2015 to “Ban the Box” and prohibits job advertisements from stating only those without a criminal past can apply.

New York Effective December 31st this past year, minimum wage increased for NY to $8.75 per hour.  Effective immediately, employers will not be required to notify their employees in writing by February 1 about pay rates, pay days, etc. and get signed acceptance.  Employers do still need to abide by their obligation to notify employees of the same at time of hire.

Ohio:  Ohio has now given employers the ability to seek out protective orders when dealing with employees’ stalker or menacing issues when the conduct is directed at the employer.

Rhode Island: Your minimum wage increased to $9 an hour beginning this month.

Vermont: Your minimum wage increased to $9.15 an hour beginning this month.

Please keep in mind that the majority of states increased their minimum wages and you should contact your employment labor counsel or the blog author to confirm you are in compliance.

April Showers: Update For Your State and Federal Employment Laws

Contributed by Heather Bailey

Federal:   The OFCCP has published the data for federal contractors and subcontractors who must now comply with having protected veteran benchmarks for their affirmative action plans and hiring goals.  Currently, that nationwide threshold is 7.2% unless the contractor wants to create its own individualized benchmarks, to which that state specific veteran data is supplied. See, http://www.dol-esa.gov/errd/VEVRAA.jsp.  Other OFCCP resources are also available, such as assistance with outreach and recruiting efforts for protected veterans:  http://www.dol-esa.gov/errd/resources.html.

That is not all.  Contractors are now required to also request individuals to self-identify if they are an individual with a disability pre-offer stage.  Again, the OFCCP has given us guidance on how to do so.  http://www.dol.gov/ofccp/regs/compliance/section503.htm.  This all came into effect on March 24, thus, time is of the essence to get compliant if your current plans are expiring soon (if not, you will be required to be compliant with your next plan – but you should start planning now).

Connecticut: Minimum wage is set to increase on January 1, 2015 to $9.15 per hour, and then to $9.60 a year later and then up to $10.10 by January 1, 2017.

Illinois:  In March, the Supreme Court found Illinois’ eavesdropping law on electronic monitoring (except video) unconstitutional.  What does this mean for employers?  Originally, all parties had to consent to being recorded – not the case anymore.  Although that allows employers to secretly record conversations (which is not advised), it allows employees to secretly record conversations during performance, discipline or even discharge meetings with management or HR.

Maryland: Have tipped employees in Maryland?  So long as their non-tip work is less than 20% of their productivity, you can pay them the minimum tip wage for that non-tip work.

New York: The New York City Earned Sick Time Act (ESTA) went into effect on April 1.  The NYC Department of Consumer Affairs finally came out with the required notices.

Here is where you can go to get copies:  http://www.nyc.gov/html/dca/downloads/pdf/MandatoryNotice.pdf   and Spanish: http://www.nyc.gov/html/dca/downloads/pdf/MandatoryNotice_Spanish.pdf .

The Department also has them available in Italian, Chinese, Korean or Russian.  These notices need to be handed to all current and new employees effective May 1, 2014.  Thus, all new hires will have to get a copy once you disperse the initial notices.  You are encouraged, but not required to post these notices at the work location.  Consequently, you cannot just post at the work site in lieu of handing the employees a copy.

State Employment Law Update

Contributed by Heather Bailey

Federal:   Federal Contractors be on alert! In an attempt to get Congressional support to raise the federal minimum wage for all workers, President Obama announced that he was going to be issuing an Executive Order that will require federal contract employers to pay workers a minimum wage of $10.10 per hour on any new federal contracts.  This could happen as soon as the next week or so.

The NLRB poster rule has gone by the wayside.  The NLRB gave up its fight to require all private employers to post the union-friendly poster by allowing the Supreme Court’s review deadline to pass without appealing two appellate court decisions that declined the NLRB’s implementation for this posting requirement.  Federal Contractors, you may still be required to display the poster depending on the date of your federal contract.

Colorado:   If you aren’t already, you should be paying minimum wage of $8.00 an hour ($4.98 for tipped employees) as of January 1.  Moreover, under Colorado’s new personal information protection law, employers are prohibited from requiring employees or applicants to allow them access to personal social media accounts, though they may still search information that is publicly available online.  Fines come with violating this law, so be precise on how you go about searching.

Delaware:  As of June 1, 2014, minimum wage increases to $7.75 per hour and to $8.25 an hour on June 1, 2015.

Missouri: Missouri looking for support for LGBT discrimination protection: In his recent State of the State address, Gov. Jay Nixon asked the legislature to pass a law adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the protected categories covered by the state’s workplace discrimination laws.  A bill passed the Senate last term, but the House failed to vote on the bill before the session ran out.

New Jersey:  REMINDER! All employers with 50 or more employees should be posting and distributing (with a signed acknowledgment) the new NJ poster re state and federal equal pay laws and discrimination prohibitions.  Get your latest copy here: http://lwd.dol.state.nj.us/labor/forms_pdfs/EmployerPosterPacket/AD-290GenderEquity1-14.pdf.

Got 10 or more employees in Newark, NJ?  If so, you may be required to start offering your employees paid sick time under the new Worker Sick Leave Ordinance (WSLO) that just needs the Mayor’s signature to take effect sometime in late May, early June.  Stay tuned for final implementation!

New Mexico:  In December 2013, this state joined the ranks of same-sex marriages, and, thus, these new marital statuses must be recognized and protected for employment purposes (including applicants).

New York: For those employers with 20 or more employees in New York City, have you drafted your required sick time policy under the New York City Earned Sick Time Act (ESTA) yet?  If not, you’ve got until April 1 to implement.  Seek counsel’s assistance to ensure compliance.

A LOT Is Happening In Your State Employment Laws!

Contributed by Heather Bailey

ArizonaMinimum wage raises to $7.90 per hour on January 1, 2014.

CaliforniaEffective January 1, 2014, employers may no longer ask applicants or employees about any sealed conviction records, unless they get the individual’s consent first to use. Generally, it is best to stay away from any such sealed records when making any employment determinations.  Also effective this same date, employers may not discriminate against veterans or those with a military status.

Moreover, computer software employees are now exempt from overtime if they make at least $40.38 per hour and their annual salary is at least $84,130.53.  As always, you want to make sure these employees are also considered exempt under the FLSA as well.  If they are not, then they remain non-exempt.

Minimum wage = $9.00 per hour effective July 1, 2014 and $10 effective January 1, 2016.

ColoradoLooks as if Minimum Wage Order 30 will be approved, raising minimum wage to $8.00 per hour and to $4.98 for tipped employees effective January 1, 2014.  Stay tuned.

FloridaMinimum wage is increased to $7.93 per hour and $4.91 for tipped employees on January 1, 2014.

Illinois:  Effective January 1, 2014, medical marijuana becomes legal for certain uses – but as employers, you don’t necessarily have to accommodate employees for this use.

Montana:  Minimum wage = $7.90 starting January 1, 2014.

New Jersey:  As of October 21, NJ now recognizes the marital status of those employees and applicants who have entered into same-sex marriages.  Also, it is pretty much a done deal that minimum wage is going to $8.25 per hour effective January 1, 2014, with yearly cost-of-living increases, once the unofficial election votes are made official.

New YorkHaving payroll problems with paying employees too much and want to recoup that money?  In NY, you can do so now.  These regulations have changed for reimbursement and should be consulted when making such pay back deductions.

OhioOH’s minimum wage reaches $7.95 per hour and $3.98 for tipped employees on January 1, 2014.

OregonEmployees’ and applicants’ marital status of same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions will now be recognized effective October 16.

Rhode IslandEffective July 15, 2014, employers can no longer be liable to employees or applicants for civil damages, demands or claims when the employer relies upon a criminal background check when making an employment decision based upon a conviction.

VermontVT’s minimum wage is going to $8.73 per hour and $4.23 for tipped employees on January 1 2014.

Washington:  Minimum wage increase to $9.32 an hour as of January 1, 2014 as well.

Multi-State Employers: It’s Time for Your State L&E Update!

Contributed by Heather Bailey

ColoradoEmployees must be allowed to take FMLA leave for their domestic partner or civil union partner who has a serious health condition.

Connecticut: Here, homeless applicants and employees are now a protected class from discrimination.  Effective January 1, 2014, minimum wage increases to $8.70 per hour and to $9 on January 1, 2015.

Illinois: Employers can now stop reporting projected monthly wages on the new-hire reports.

Maryland:  Effective October 1, 2013, employers have a new posting requirement for tipped employees stating that employer cannot require tipped employees to reimburse employer for unpaid customer charges.  If an employer does not offer health insurance, employees’ minimum wages are $8.25 per hour.

NevadaNevada has become the next state prohibiting employers from compelling employees to give up their personal social media account log-ins and passwords, effective October 1, 2013.

New Hampshire: Effective August 24, 2013, employers cannot ask applicants and employees regarding certain annulled records, as well as, medical marijuana is now legal but employers may not need to accommodate this (be prepared on how you handle this in the workplace).

New YorkMinimum wage increase to $8 an hour on December 31, 2013, to $8.75 on December 31, 2014 and $9 on December 31, 2015.

Rhode IslandMinimum wage rises to $8 per hour on January 1, 2014, as well as, same-sex marriages and civil unions from other jurisdictions are now recognized.

State laws change every day.  Make sure you are aware of them all for the states in which you have employees!