State and Local Law Update

One of the most difficult things for human resource and absence management professionals to do is to keep up with changing State and local laws. Below is a brief summary of some new laws of interest:

Massachusetts: The Massachusetts Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a plaintiff who was fired for testing positive for marijuana, even though she had told her employer she would test positive but did not use the prescribed drug before or at work.

The employer argued it was following Federal law and that violating Federal law wasn’t a reasonable accommodation. The Supreme Court said that the use of medically prescribed marijuana is lawful under State law, and that an exception to an employer’s drug-free policy for medical marijuana is a reasonable accommodation and that such an accommodation would not make the employer an aider or abettor in breaking Federal law.

Minneapolis: The Minnesota Court of Appeals has affirmed a County District Court ruling that the City of Minneapolis can proceed with the paid sick leave ordinance, which took effect July 1. For now, the ordinance can only apply to Minneapolis-based employers.

New York: New York State has issued a number of forms related to implementation of its new paid family benefits law. The New York Department of Financial Services has sent a letter to health insurance companies stressing that they cannot discriminate or deny coverage based on gender identity.

New York, New York: New York City has expanded its earned sick time law to include absences from work resulting from the employee or a covered family member being the victim of family offense matters, sexual offenses, stalking or human trafficking.

Rhode Island: Beginning on July 1, 2018, employees in Rhode Island will have paid sick leave. The new law only applies to businesses with 18 or more employees in Rhode Island. Public employers, certain construction employers under a collective bargaining agreement and certain licensed nurses are exempt from the new law. The number of paid sick days begins at three and will increase to four in 2019 and five in 2020.

San Francisco, California: San Francisco has published a model policy and a model accommodation request form under its new ordinance requiring lactation accommodations for mothers in the workplace. The models can be found here.

San Francisco has also issued rules on its Health Care Security Ordinance (HCSO). In 2018, the HCSO will require employers with 100 or more employees to spend a minimum of $2.83 per hour on health coverage for their San Francisco employees who regularly work 8 or more hours per week. Employers with 20-99 employees must spend $1.89 per hour. There is also a new voluntary waiver form, which can be found here.

Texas: A new law went into effect on September 1, 2017 providing equal protection to foster parents under family leave policies.

Washington: The State has finalized rules for its paid sick leave law. The rules cover a number of topics, including how employees accrue paid sick leave, what they can use it for, when they can use it and how to calculate rates of pay.


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About John Garner

John Garner has over thirty five years of experience in employee benefits. He specializes in compliance, health care reform, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). He helps clients with life, health, and disability benefits, cost containment, flexible benefits, and claim consulting.

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