Regulatory Wrap-Up: Insider’s guide to retail-related legislative developments
Arizona: Senate Republicans are considering a measure for the November ballot designed to alter a 2016 voter-approved initiative. If passed by the voters, it would cap the scheduled minimum wage increases at $10/hr and repeal the paid leave mandate.
New Jersey: Lawmakers in the state assembly have introduced a bill to increase the minimum wage for tipped workers from $2.13/hr to $5.93/hr. The proposal could be folded into ongoing discussions between Democratic leadership and the governor over a potential minimum wage increase to $15/hr.
New York: The state labor department released a schedule of public hearings to review the New York’s tip credit law. Five hearings will be held throughout the state between March and May. The labor department is expected to release new regulations following those hearings, likely shrinking or eliminating the cash wage in the state.
Redwood City, CA: The city council is considering legislation to increase the city’s minimum wage to $15/hr by 2019. The statewide timetable increases the state minimum wage to $15/hr by 2022. Several cities in the Bay Area and Silicon Valley are considering, or have already enacted, similar mandates. The bill will be voted on during the March 26 council meeting.
Maryland: The senate is considering a bill that would extend the enforcement date of the recently passed statewide paid leave law. The law is set to go into effect Feb. 11. The bill would delay enforcement for 60 days to allow businesses more time to comply. While there may be enough support in the senate, business groups are concerned that there may not be able to secure enough votes in the general assembly. Regardless, the bill may not move through the legislature prior to Feb. 11. Further complicating matters, the state’s labor department announced they will not distribute enforcement policies until the end of session in April. As things stand, employers with operations in Maryland should make every effort to comply with the law by Feb. 11.
Washington: Last week, Uber joined the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in support of a state portable benefits program. The plan would theoretically allow workers to carry benefits, such as health insurance, paid leave and retirement plans, between jobs. This proposal is framed as a solution for gig economy workers (independent contractors) but could also easily be expanded to include all workers.
Austin, TX: The city council will vote on a paid sick leave ordinance Feb. 15. The long-debated bill would require that all employers provide eight sick days per year.
Starbucks: The company announced an expansion to their paid leave policies for hourly workers. Workers will now be eligible for up to six weeks of paid family leave per year and employees can now accrue up to five days of sick leave per year.
New York City, NY: In response to a lawsuit brought by the National Restaurant Association, a federal judge enjoined the dues deduction requirement included in the city’s Fair Workweek laws. The litigation is focused on the requirement that employers automatically deduct monies from employees’ paychecks and forward that deduction to a nonprofit of their choosing. The requirement was a top union priority.
Jimmy John’s: A former employee has filed a proposed class action lawsuit in federal court against the sandwich chain alleging violations of antitrust laws. The complaint challenges a section of the franchise agreement that prevents franchisees from recruiting workers from other franchisees within the Jimmy John’s system. These non-compete clauses have faced increased scrutiny in recent months.
California: Assembly Democrats are pushing for a state constitutional amendment that would impose a 10 percent corporate income tax on companies with more than $1 million in net income. The proposal faces a long path to become law as it would need to be approved by two-thirds of the legislature and then be approved by the voters via a ballot initiative.
Massachusetts: Amazon has agreed to share tax information and other data about the online retailer’s third-party sellers with state tax officials. In the unprecedented move, the state will now be able to identify out-of-state sellers who have inventory stored in the state and may therefore be subject to tax collection and remittance. The state could also go after unpaid taxes that were never collected creating an enormous tax liability for many sellers. Now that Amazon has agreed to share the information, state officials acknowledged that the successful move is likely to be repeated by other state tax departments.
New York: The Department of Taxation and Finance released a preliminary report outlining options for tax changes in response to the federal tax reform bill, which limits the amount of state income tax that residents can deduct on their federal income taxes. Included in the report were analyses of both a statewide employer compensation expense tax and a payroll tax, which Governor Cuomo proposed in his state budget.
Virginia: A bill that increases the felony theft level for theft of goods from $200 to $500 passed the Senate 36-3 and has been referred to the Committee on Rules in the House for further action.
California: A bill that was originally designed to require manufacturers to ensure that any internet-connected device contain specific privacy features and alert users when collecting personal data, was amended and passed the Senate this week. The significantly watered-down bill now clarifies existing state law by adding that a connected device must be equipped with “reasonable security standards.”
South Dakota: The Senate passed a data breach notification law, supported by Attorney General Jackley, that would make the state the 49th to have such a law in place. A few key provisions important to businesses were incorporated into the law, including the need to establish “reasonably determined harm” as the requirement for notification, along with a 60-day window to alert those who could be affected by a breach. The law, and others like it across the country, are a response to recent high-profile data breaches, such as the Equifax 2016 breach of more than 140 million individual records.
Federal: President Trump announced the imposition of tariffs on imported solar panel components and large residential washing machines. The administration approved a 20 percent tariff on the first 1.2 million washers sold and 50 percent on the remainder of imports over two years. A 30 percent tariff on solar panel components will begin declining over four years.
• The announcement this week of Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi’s support for portable benefits is an important inflection point in the life cycle of the issue. Momentum has been gaining, certainly on the intellectual left but also in some conservative circles, in support of a benefits system that recognizes the realities of the modern economy. Almost one quarter of the workforce is now classified as independent contractors, many of whom work for multiple companies. As the concept gains steam, the conversation will move to the details of implementation. It’s important that employers engage sooner rather than later to help shape that discussion.
• This week Starbucks joined a growing list of companies that have announced their intention to use the recent tax cuts to expand benefits for workers. Employers are increasingly having to make unilateral wage and benefit decisions ahead of government mandates to attract and retain workers. Look for other companies to try and keep pace.
• President Trump’s imposition of tariffs on some foreign imported products is the highest profile trade action taken under the “America First” edict. Citing the need to protect American companies competing with lower cost foreign goods, it fits into the anti-China narrative and will appeal to his political base. Trade experts expressed concern that other countries, not just those directly affected by the tariffs, could take retaliatory action and ignite a trade war. The administration will likely monitor worldwide reaction and could see the benefit to additional protectionist actions leading into the midterm election cycle.
Legislature Status for Week of 1/29/18:
• The United States Senate is in session this week
• The United States House is in session this week
• Thirty-nine state legislatures are meeting actively this week:
o AL, AK, AZ, CA, CO, DE, FL, GA, HI, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, MA, MD, ME, MI, MO, MS, NC, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OH, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV
Check out our Working Lunch podcast each week that includes further analysis into these legislative issues, policy, politics and much more. You can find Working Lunch on the Nation’s Restaurant News website, or by clicking here, and when you download the podcast and subscribe on iTunes here.
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