By: Dan Cohen – 2/10/15
Many of our clients have multi-state operations. And, while most of the employment laws that govern their operations across state lines are relatively similar, there are subtle differences from state to state and some dramatic differences in some states. California is a prime example with its one-of-a-kind wage and hour laws, including meal, rest and recovery periods, paid sick days, daily overtime requirements, and vacation rules, to just name a few. If you conduct business in California, you absolutely must spend time preparing yourself and your business for what lies ahead. It is simply not enough to introduce your Michigan handbook to your California employees and think you have it covered. In fact, it is a mistake to think that your Michigan handbook, policies and practices can be used in most other states.
I am not just picking on California either. Illinois, New York, Colorado, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Washington are states that have employment laws that are much different than those in Michigan. Many states have their own version of the Michigan Elliott-Larson Civil Rights Act, and offer protections to individuals not otherwise protected under Elliott Larson or even federal law. Illinois, for example, protects individuals unfavorably discharged from the military, for their sexual orientation and those with orders of protection under domestic violence laws. Massachusetts also protects individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity. Pennsylvania protects individuals who possess a general education diploma (GED) and because of an individual’s willingness or refusal to participate in abortion or sterilization.
Nearly half the states have LGBT legislation and family and parental leave laws on the books. There is a wide divergence of wage hour laws across the country as well. Minimum wage laws vary from state to state as do benefit rights. In at least six states (California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, and Nevada) employers must pay discharged employees immediately (on the same day). Ban-the-box laws vary from state to state as well. If you operate in some states like Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota or Rhode Island, you must be familiar with the prohibitions against asking applicants about criminal convictions. In Washington, employers may only inquire about convictions in the last 10 years. California applicants cannot be required to list any misdemeanor conviction information in cases where probation has been successfully completed or otherwise discharged and the case has been judicially dismissed. Additionally, California applicants cannot be required to list certain marijuana convictions if more than two years old. Still, other states protect individuals who have convictions that have been sealed or expunged by a court. There are also over 100 municipalities across the country that ban-the-box.
Even within Michigan, there are various local ordinances that businesses must follow. For example, there are 36 municipalities in Michigan, including Detroit, Grand Rapids, Lansing, Saginaw, Ann Arbor, Traverse City, Royal Oak and Huntington Woods, that offer protection based upon an individual’s sexual orientation. Of course, when you operate in other states, there are local ordinances that must be followed there as well. Take San Francisco, for example, with its family friendly workplace ordinance, fair chance criminal background ordinance and health care security ordinance, which requires employers to spend a certain amount of money per employee on health care.
Some businesses have learned the hard way by using their Michigan handbooks, pay practices and employment applications in other states. The best advice I have is to take inventory of the differences in those states where you conduct business and where you hope to conduct business. Make sure all of your forms are compliant in those states. This really is not such a daunting task, but it is often overlooked. And, don’t just go on line and google employment applications for California. For every on-line resource that is accurate and useful, there are dozens that are not and which merely provide a false sense of security. Do not make that mistake.