Southeast Employment Law Update
Alabama has adopted an equal pay statute modeled after its federal counterpart. Effective September 1, 2019, Alabama now prohibits paying an employee less than another employee of a different race or sex for equal work (note, Federal EPA does not include race). In addition, the Alabama statute also prohibits any adverse act against an employee/applicant who refuses to provide pay history. Employers in Alabama will want to check their hiring and pay practices to ensure compliance with this new law.
Effective January 1, 2020, Florida’s minimum wage increases from $8.46 an hour to $8.56 an hour. For tipped workers, it will increase from $5.44 an hour to $5.54 an hour. Florida’s minimum wage is adjusted each year in September based on inflation and becomes effective January 1 of the following year. Remember to update your state posters.
On November 3, 2020, voters will have the chance to vote on a proposal that would raise the state minimum wage to $15.00 an hour. If the amendment passes, the minimum wage would increase to $10.00 an hour on September 30, 2021, and then would raise a dollar more each year until it reaches $15.00 an hour in September 2026. In a polarized presidential election year, there is a significant chance this amendment will pass. To view the amendment, click here.
Amendments to Florida’s Unemployment Compensation System Allowing for Benefits to Victims of Domestic Violence
On June 10, 2019, Florida amended its Reemployment Assistance Program to prohibit victims of domestic violence from being disqualified for benefits. The bill became effective on July 1, 2019. An individual may not be disqualified from receiving reemployment assistance if he or she voluntarily leaves work and is able to prove that the reason is a direct result of circumstances related to domestic violence.
A domestic violence victim’s receipt of benefits is not chargeable to the employer and, therefore, should not directly adversely impact the employer’s future tax rate. You can read the statute here.
On July 1, 2019, Florida amended its smoking laws by expanding the prohibition on smoking in indoor workplaces to include vaping (e.g., use of e-cigarettes). Employers are required to amend their workplace smoking policies to include the prohibition against vaping.
Tennessee passed an anti-bullying statute (Healthy Workplace Act) in 2019 that can be problematic. TCA Section 50-1-501 et seq. In essence, an employer must adopt the state approved “anti-bullying policy” or be subject to litigation for bullying (abusive conduct). Note, the Tennessee agency specifically states this policy has not been approved “yet” and therefore may change later. As a practice note, Tennessee employers should review their policies and ensure an appropriate “anti-bullying” policy is in place.
David S. Harvey, Jr., Partner
Deron T. Roberson, Associate