THE BLOG

Updates From My Inbox: New State and Local Work-Life Laws

11/06/2013 12:55 pm ET
  • Marcy Karin Clinical Professor of Law; Director, Work-Life Law and Policy Clinic, ASU Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law

Like most professionals, my inbox gets flooded with email alerts from various news sources, organizations, government agencies and other stakeholders that work on the substantive areas in which I practice, research and teach. A recent cross-country flight offered me an opportunity to catch up on the emails that came my way in October during National Work and Family Month.

One thing became clear as I read email after email: In a year marked by Congressional deadlock on the national level, states and localities are creating a series of work-life policies that offer a range of protections to advance the interests of workers, families, employers and communities. Some highlights from my inbox review:

• The minimum wage was raised in Arizona (pursuant to a voter-approved Proposition that authorizes cost-of-living adjustments), California (which will see another raise to $10/hour in 2016), and Ohio (pursuant to a state constitutional amendment that ties the rate to inflation).
• Access to paid sick leave was guaranteed in Jersey City and New York City.
• Partial wage replacement via a state-wide paid family leave insurance program was created in Rhode Island, and the existing program was expanded to more accurately reflect the caregiving needs of modern families that include grandparents, siblings, in-laws, and others in California.
• Workers with dependents were granted the "right to ask" for a flexible work arrangement in San Francisco to help eliminate the stigma associated with seeking such arrangements.
• Workers who are pregnant or experiencing pregnancy-related health conditions were given the right to obtain reasonable accommodations at work in New York City, including "bathroom breaks, leave and assistance with manual labor . . ."
• Personal attendants were granted overtime protection in California through the creation of a Domestic Worker Bill of Rights.
• People out of work due to natural disasters, like recent flooding, were given the opportunity to apply for unemployment insurance, even if they would not otherwise be eligible for such benefits, in Colorado.
• Military spouses who moved locations based on military orders may transfer certain professional licenses in Illinois and South Dakota.
• State employees have access to a new telework program in Florida.
• Tax credits were created to incentivize additional employers hire veterans with disabilities in Virginia.

Wow, this sampling of state and local laws only includes some of the new laws that made it into my inbox! It does not include active campaigns to expand access to paid sick days, family leave, reasonable accommodations and other workplace protections in places like Massachusetts, Washington, DC and elsewhere.

Here's hoping the government at all levels -- federal, state, and local -- continues to address the mismatch of the way American workplaces are structured and the needs of American workers. =What news about state and local work-life laws or proposals came your way during National Work and Family Month? Feel free to share in the comments.