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State Labor Laws, 2003

State labor legislation enacted in 2003

Minimum wage rates, child labo , employment discrimination, crime victim protection, and military re-employment rights were among major legislation enacted or revised during the year

Richard R. Nelson and John J. Fitzpatrick, Jr.

A greater volume of labor legislation was enacted in 2 0 0 3 t h a n i n r e c e n t y e a r s , d e s p i t e t h e f a c t t h a t b u d g e t c o n c e r n s w e r e a p r i o r i t y f o r m a n y S t a t e s . 1 C a l i f o r n i a , Illinois, and Texas enacted particularly large numbers of laws.

Legislation enacted addressed several areas of employment standards and included many important measures: increased minimum wage rates; expanded coverage of family and medi- cal leave laws; additional prohibitions on children working in hazardous occupations; and new measures addressing work- place security.

Additional States provided leave for employees who are crime victims; protected the earnings of children working in the entertainment industry; eased regulation of the private employment agency industry; and protected the jobs of re- serve and guard members returning from military active duty.

New protections from discrimination were enacted for transgender individuals, prohibitions were enacted on the purchase of goods produced through forced labor, and a Cali- fornia law requires employers to provide healthcare benefits.

This article summarizes significant State labor legislation enacted in 2003. It does not, however, cover legislation on occupational safety and health, employment and training, la- bor relations, employee background clearance, economic de- velopment, and local living wage ordinances. Articles re- porting on changes in unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation laws appear separately in this issue.

Wages. Minimum wage rates increased as the result of new legislation in Illinois, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and Vermont; as a result of previous laws in Alaska, Connecticut, Hawaii, and Maine; and as a result of prior ballot measures in Oregon and Washington. In Alaska, a 2002 enactment that provided for indexed rate increases was repealed.

As of January 1, 2004, minimum wage rates were higher than the Federal standard in Alaska, California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wash- ington. Of the 43 States with minimum wage laws, only 2 have rates lower than the Federal rate of $5.15 per hour.2

Santa Fe, New Mexico, and San Francisco, California, adopted local minimum wage ordinances. Conversely, a new Texas law provides that State law supersedes a wage estab- lished in an ordinance, and, in Florida, political subdivisions are barred from establishing, or otherwise requiring an em- ployer to pay a minimum wage, other than a Federal minimum wage, or applying a Federal minimum wage to those wages exempt from Federal coverage.

Enactments in Utah and Vermont changed the amount of the tip credit authorized for employers to meet a portion of the minimum wage.

New minimum wage and overtime law exemptions were en- acted in Arkansas and Montana, and a new overtime exemp- tion was enacted in Alaska.

A Maine law permits State employees to be awarded com- pensatory time in lieu of overtime pay.

Richard R. Nelson and John J. Fitzpatrick, Jr. are State Standards Advisors in the Division of External Affairs, Wage and Hour Division, Employment Standards Administration, U.S. Department of Labor. E-mail: Fitzpatrickjr.john@dol.gov

Prevailing wage laws pertaining to public works construc- tion projects currently exist in 32 States and the Federal Gov- ernment.3 This year, as usual, a mix of laws was enacted, with some strengthening and with others weakening existing laws.

Monthly Labor Review

January 2004


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