Minimum Wage Hikes in 20 States Headline 2019 Employment Law Changes

As always, the ball dropping in Times Square not only ushers in a new year but many new employment laws across the country taking effect on January 1. Headlining the list are numerous minimum wage increases as 20 states raised their minimum hourly rate, several of them by a significant amount.

But while minimum wage hikes are where we’ll start, they are hardly the only changes of which employers should be aware. So without further ado, here are the most notable developments that took effect on New Year’s Day.

  1. Minimum Wage

With the federal minimum wage frozen at $7.25 since July 2009, it’s not surprising that many states have taken matters into their own hands. In fact, minimum wage hikes at the state level have become virtually an annual event.

Even so, 20 states raising their minimum hourly rates is big news, with some of those increases coming about due to ballot measures, some from state legislative actions and several as a result of automatic inflation adjustments. Those states raising their minimum wage on January 1 include:

  • Alaska–$9.89 per hour;
  • Arizona–$11.00 per hour;
  • Arkansas–$9.25 per hour;
  • California–$12.00 if 26 or more employees, $11.00 if 25 or fewer employees;
  • Colorado–$11.10 per hour;
  • Delaware–$8.75 per hour (and jumps to $9.25 on October 1, 2019);
  • Florida–$8.46 per hour;
  • Maine–$11.00 per hour;
  • Massachusetts–$12.00 per hour;
  • Michigan–$9.45 per hour (as of March 28, 2019);
  • Minnesota–$9.86 for large employers (gross annual sales volume of $500,000 or more and covered by state FLSA), $8.04 for small employers;
  • Missouri–$8.60 per hour;
  • Montana–$8.50 for most employers;
  • New Jersey–$8.85 per hour;
  • New York–varies based on location from $11.10 to $15.00;
  • Ohio–$8.55 for most employers;
  • Rhode Island–$10.50 per hour;
  • South Dakota–$9.10 per hour;
  • Vermont–$10.78 per hour; and
  • Washington–$12.00 per hour.

Adding to that lengthy list are the more than 20 cities that raised their minimum wage beyond the state levels, including New York City, San Diego, Seattle and many others. For all the details, check out XpertHR’s 50-state chart of Minimum Wage Rates by State and Municipality.

  1. Salary History

One of the biggest employment law trends of 2018 at the state level involved new prohibitions on salary history questions. These restrictions aim to eliminate the still-sizeable gap that exists between men and women for performing the same, or substantially similar, work.

Effective January 1, 2019, the following states restrict employers from asking job applicants about their current or past salary history:

  • Connecticut;
  • Hawaii; and
  • Oregon.

In addition, California amends its salary history law (which first took effect a year ago) to clarify that an employer may ask a job applicant about his or her salary expectations. Under the amendments, an employer may make a compensation decision based on an employee’s current salary, but only if any wage differential resulting from that decision is justified by one or more specified factors, including:

  • A seniority system;
  • A merit system;
  • A system that measures earnings by production quantity or quality; or
  • A bona fide factor other than sex, such as education, training or experience.
  1. Leave and Benefits

Another evolving area involves new requirements relating to leave and employee benefits. These requirements cover issues ranging from paid sick and family leave to health care to military leave.

Eight states had new requirements taking effect on January 1, including:

  • Arizona—health care continuation coverage law;
  • Connecticut—essential health benefit and cost sharing requirements;
  • Illinois—consolidating military leave laws;
  • Maine—adding preventive health care service requirements
  • New Jersey—individual health insurance mandate;
  • New York—paid family leave benefits rate increase;
  • Rhode Island—paid sick leave accrual and use rate increases; and
  • Washington—employee contributions may be collected for paid family and medical leave benefits.

And speaking of health care, don’t forget that the federal tax reform law enacted in late December 2017 repealed the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate beginning January 1, 2019. The ACA individual mandate had required almost everyone either to maintain minimum essential coverage or make a shared responsibility payment.

The New Jersey individual health insurance mandate law, mentioned above, mirrors the one that the ACA originally established before its repeal. Other states may well follow suit.

But That’s Not All!

These requirements, along with increased minimum wage rates and salary history inquiry laws, highlight the 2019 changes likely to affect your organization. But they are by no means the only ones. To learn more about potential new compliance requirements in your state, XpertHR has a comprehensive look at other changes that helped ring in the new year.

What new employment law concerns you the most? Let us know by leaving a comment below.