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New Hiring Laws Across the US – Is Your Business Affected?

Whether you have a full HR department or do all the hiring yourself, it can be tough to stay on top of the ever-changing legal landscape. Recently, many states and local areas have successfully proposed, instituted or fine-tuned legislation to ban certain discriminatory hiring practices.

Businesses across the country may need to revise hiring policies and practices to stay compliant with these bans. Below, we look at two fast-growing bans that have the potential to affect thousands of employers.

Banning Salary History Inquiries

Historically, asking applicants about their previous salaries was a staple of the hiring process. For many companies, previous salary is (or was) a factor used to help calculate a salary or benefits offer for a potential hire. However, the practice has been widely criticized for contributing to pay inequity, penalizing recipients of previous pay discrimination (often women and minorities) with lower offers.

In response, the last two years have seen a sharp uptick in bans prohibiting inquiries into salary history. Statewide bans are in effect in 13 states and will go into effect in three more states later this year.

Current Statewide Bans

State Bans Going Into Effect This Year

  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Massachusetts
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Vermont
  • Alabama (September 1, 2019)
  • Maine (September 17, 2019)
  • Washington (July 28, 2019)

Local areas—from Richland County, South Carolina to Salt Lake City, Utah—have also begun instituting new regulations prohibiting employers from inquiring about previous salaries.

Some acts and ordinances are specific to government departments or only prohibit inquiry (not use of salary information if discovered in another way). However, other legislation is more far-reaching. For instance, in Ohio, both Cincinnati and Toledo have recently passed ordinances prohibiting employers with more than 15 employees from the following:

  • asking candidates about their salaries
  • using information about previous salaries to decide whether or not to hire applicants
  • using information about previous salaries to determine an offer of salary or other compensation
  • retaliating against applicants who do not disclose their previous salaries

Both of these ordinances go into effect in 2020 and allow affected applicants to bring forth lawsuits and receive both legal compensation and damages.

Takeaway for your business: Salary history questions appear to be on the way out across the country, so you may need to remove this factor from hiring considerations. Even if your area currently has no restrictions against asking about an applicant’s previous salary, new bans are cropping up each month.

Banning Natural Hair Discrimination

Hiring practices or dress codes that prohibit natural hair or protective styles are the target of several new bills and laws across the US. Dress codes and policies that target natural hair are frequently criticized as discriminatory as they disproportionately affect people of color. There has been significant public outcry against recent incidents such as when a Texas amusement park characterized a young black applicant’s dreadlocks as an “extreme hairstyle” against the company’s grooming code.

California just became the first state to pass legislation in response to natural hair discrimination. The CROWN Act (Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair) expands existing laws that protect against racial discrimination by including “traits historically associated with race” such as the style and texture of hair. As a result, school and employer dress codes or grooming policies that ban natural hair or protective hairstyles, such as braids, dreadlocks or twists, are prohibited.

California’s not alone, however. New Jersey and New York both have similar bills under consideration that could quickly become law—and it’s likely that local ordinances and additional state acts will follow suit.

Takeaway for your business: California employers need to review hiring practices and dress codes to ensure they’re in compliance. For employers elsewhere, note that similar bills are in the works—so it’s a good time to review and update policies.

Need more resources? 

Maintaining a business isn’t easy. In addition to keeping up with ever-changing legislation, you have reports to file, meetings to record, and much more. Northwest can help.

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