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SHRM Employment Law and Legislative Conference

Kiwi Partners’ HR Services Team services many organizations that employ remote workers who work in offices nationwide, which can make it a challenge to stay in compliance. To stay up-to-date on legislative changes so that Kiwi Partners can provide the best guidance, we recently attended the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)’s Employment Law and Legislative Conference in Washington D.C., where we learned what new bills are being drafted, enacted, or creating controversy. Here is our roundup of topics discussed at the conference that we thought would be relevant to you.


Many industries and businesses will need to prepare for the coming TIDE (Technically-Induced Displaced Employees). The impact will widen the current skill set gap we have in the United States. According to the White House, the unemployment rate is at an all-time low but there are not enough people to fill available roles or new roles related to automation that will take place in the next few years. Organizations will need to implement strategies on workforce development – for example, hiring and training formerly incarcerated individuals, veterans, and disabled workers. Additionally, organizations will need to evaluate their workplace flexibility and leave policies and review their compensation structure for inequities.

Federal law remains silent on several areas of worker protection. However, states, cities, and municipalities have made progress in laws to protect or move the following areas: minimum wage, LGBT(Q) protected classes, marijuana legislation, equity pay, ban on asking questions about salaries, and paid time off. Since many states and cities enact these kinds of laws, this has created a dilemma for employers with multi-state employees. It does not make sense for employers to administer different paid leaves or offer protections to a class in one state and not offer it in another state. Differentiating one set of employees from another can also cause injury to an organization’s culture. It is crucial for organizations to understand the different state laws to be able to make decisions that make sense for their employees and the organization. Some organizations may decide to give the most generous protection or most liberal interpretation of the law.


Workforce Development:

The White House has signed an executive order establishing the National Council for the American Worker, which is charged with developing a national strategy for empowering American workers, and promoting workforce development strategies that provide evidence-based, affordable education and skills-based training. See below for additional updates from various federal agencies:

  • The Department of Labor will be working on an Apprenticeship Initiative.

  • Life Long Learning legislation has bipartisan support. Life Long Learning legislative will allow employers/employees to set up an account, e.g. a 403b or 401k, to save money for re-education and training.

  • Two bills have been introduced to Congress (H.R. 1043 and S.460) to increase the education assistance tax-free limit and to expand the tax-free benefit to student loan assistance.


Minimum Wage Increases:

NYC minimum wage has increased to $15.00 per hour. At this time, NY is one of five states that will reach $15.00 minimum wage target (states include California, Illinois, MA, and NJ). At least 29 states have higher minimum wages than the federal level, and the trend is expected to continue in other states.

Salary Bans:

In NYC, there is a ban against asking a candidate how much they have earned or are earning in their current position. (One should review their employment application and recruiting practices to remove such question).

Sexual Harassment Prevention Training:

As of 2/12/19, ten states had enacted laws around sexual harassment prevention and three states had laws pending. Furthermore, NYC and CA have a bystander intervention training requirement which is unique from other states. “Preventative training” is not enough to change behavior. Instead, behavioral change or reflection is driven is by tying it to values (company-wide and individualistic). Additionally, it is not only up to one individual to stand up for themselves, as it takes a healthy majority. Lastly, bystanders should feel empowered by employers to say something.

Pay Equity:

States, such as CA, MD, OR, and NJ, have expanded the definition of who is protected under their states pay equity law.

Protected Classes:

Twenty-four states plus Puerto Rico and D.C. have expanded their state’s definition of a protected class to include sexual orientation and gender identity (22 states out of the 24 referenced).


Thirty-three states allow medically authorize marijuana and ten out of the 33 states have decriminalized recreational use.

Workforce Development:

States like WA, NJ, PA, and CA have taken steps to prepare its workforce for automation.

Would you like to hear about more legal updates? Kiwi Partners will be hosting a Legal Updates Roundtable on Tuesday, June 25, 2019. Sign up here!

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