Michigan – The Michigan Supreme Court voted to take up the appeal to the unanimous 3-0 ruling from the Court of Appeals earlier this year that prevented pending minimum wage and paid leave laws from going into effect. The appellate panel had ruled then that the legislature, controlled by Republicans at the time, did have the constitutional authority in 2018 to adopt a pair of petition initiatives and amend their respective policies, instead of having the initiatives go to the ballot that Nov. In the decision, the court wrote there is no explicit language in the constitution banning the legislature from adopting laws initially brought forward by petition initiative and amending those laws in the same legislative session. Wage proponents filed an appeal to the state supreme court which was granted this week. As yet, there is no timetable for when the case will be heard. More details.
Wisconsin – Legislation was introduced in the state senate to eliminate the tip credit. Wisconsin currently follows the federal minimum wage of $7/25/hr but has a server wage of $2.33/hr. Chances for final passage are unlikely. More details.
King County, WA – The county council is considering legislation to raise the minimum wage to $19/hr for unincorporated King County. The proposed minimum wage would cover businesses in areas outside any city limits, so it wouldn’t include Seattle, Bellevue, Redmond, Renton or other cities, but it would cover areas such as Skyway, White Center, Vashon Island and Bear Creek. The ordinance will go through a public workshopping process before the council will be asked to vote. More details.
Chicago, IL – The Rules Committee of the city council advanced legislation to phase out the tip credit over a two-year period and bring server wages in line with the city’s current minimum wage of $15.80/hr. The legislation likely now goes to the Workforce Development Committee which should be confirmed at the full council’s meeting next week on Sept.13. The proposal is a priority for the mayor who promised to address the issue within the first 100 days of his new administration. He and other city council members recently appeared at a One Fair Wage rally led by key industry antagonist Saru Jayaraman. Additionally, following the hearing, One Fair Wage held a rally outside city hall. More details.
Oregon – Oregon’s new paid family and medical leave program is seeing early signs of greater-than-anticipated demand, while money collected to fund the benefits is slightly coming up short. Preliminary data suggest applicants are requesting more leave time than forecast, potentially incurring greater costs. In contrast, contributions collected from both employers and employees seem to be slightly trailing expectations. More details.
NLRB – Gywnne Wilcox was confirmed by the U.S. Senate to serve another term on the National Labor Relations Board. Senators voted 51-48 to let Wilcox resume serving on the five-member board that administers federal labor law. The confirmation vote followed a narrow 50-49 tally to invoke cloture. The vote broke down largely along party lines, with a few exceptions: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) opposed Wilcox, while Alaska Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan supported her. Sullivan had voted against cloture. In the final days of her previous term with the reconfirmation voting schedule unclear, the Board issued a slew of pro-employee decisions around union election rules and employees rights regarding corporate communication. More details.
New York – The governor signed legislation adding wage theft to the types of activities included in the crime of larceny. By amending the penal code, this legislation allows prosecutors to seek stronger penalties against employers who “steal” wages from workers. More details.
New York – The governor signed captive audience legislation prohibiting employers from coercing employees into attending or participating in meetings sponsored by the employer concerning the employer’s views on political or religious matters. More details.
Massachusetts – The attorney general’s office approved a number of ballot initiatives this week, including an initiative to eliminate the tip credit by 2029. Proponents now have until Nov. 22 to gather 74,574 signatures to keep the petition alive. If they are successful, then the legislature will have until April 30, 2024 to take action on subjects related to the petition – adopt, amend, approve, or take no action. If no action is taken then activists would need to gather an additional 12,429 signatures by June 19, 2024 to place the measure on the ballot. The Massachusetts Restaurant Association had contested the current language saying it violates the single subject rule and may pursue other legal action going forward. More details.
- Lost in the flurry of activity over the last two weeks at the NLRB was a decision in the Stericycle case that may have as much impact on daily operations and communications between employers and employees as any other case. Under this new standard, a workplace rule or policy is “presumptively unlawful” if it tends to chill employees from engaging in protected conduct under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”). In such cases, the new standard requires employers to demonstrate that the rule advances a legitimate and substantial business interest that cannot be advanced by a more narrowly tailored rule. Essentially employers are deemed guilty until proven innocent. The Board’s new analysis of handbooks and work rules thus focuses on whether an employee could reasonably interpret the rule in question to have a “coercive meaning,” even if a contrary, non-coercive interpretation of the rule is also reasonable. The Board clarified that it would interpret the rule from the perspective of an employee who is subject to the rule and economically dependent on the employer, and who also contemplates engaging in protected concerted activities. This is new ground for employers and as such, they should carefully review and evaluate their workplace rules and policies for compliance and prepare for potential challenges to those rules and policies.
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