Shout Out to Utah’s Unemployed

Utah’s Unemployment Insurance poster has recently been revised to include new information regarding a variety of free services available to assist workers who are unemployed in finding new employment.

The Utah Department of Workforce Services issued the mandatory poster to make it easier, through use of an assortment of specially designed programs, for unemployed workers attempting to find work.

The services available through Utah State Employment Centers include career counseling, job referrals, employer recruitment, workshops, and job training. Supportive services offered to unemployed workers include food stamps, financial and medical assistance, help with child care, and referrals to community resources.

Unemployed workers also have access to Job Connection Rooms that provide Internet access and Information Specialists to help them with their job searches, as well as the use of fax and copy machines at no charge.

The revised posted also includes new information about filing claims for unemployment benefits online.


Keeping Your Posters Up to Date

There’s been a number of changes in regards to labor law posters in July. It’s important to keep yourself updated of such changes, as your posters should present only the most recent labor laws.

In the state of Colorado, the unemployment insurance poster has been updated to include the option of an online process for filing for unemployment insurance benefits. In addition, phone numbers for filing claims have been updated.

In Wisconsin, changes have been made to their child labor law poster, to properly reflect the revisions that were recently made as part of their state budget bill (as we discussed here). The poster now includes the new information concerning the number of hours that minors can be employed for and a requirement for employers to obtain work permits before a minor is hired.

Finally, in Missouri, an updated Discrimination poster has been issued. Simply put, the Missouri Human Rights Act makes it illegal to discriminate in any aspect of employment including hiring and firing, recruitment, compensation and fringe, and the poster has been changed to show this. For a good explanation of discrimination, take a look at one of our past blog posts.

Maximum Information on Minimum Wage

A minimum wage is the lowest hourly, daily or monthly salary that employers may legally pay to workers. In the U.S., there exists two forms of minimum wage; one by federal word, and another by individual state law. Oftentimes, the two are different. When such a case occurs, a worker is entitled to the higher of the two wages.

The history of the minimum wage law in America begins in the early 1900s, when sweatshops’ abuse of workers was incredibly rampant. Minimum wages, amongst a slew of other newly made labor laws, were created to combat the dark conditions of sweatshops, where employees would work for low wages under terrible conditions. Over time, the concept of minimum wage expanded to help more people become more self sufficient.

In the U.S.A, the minimum wage varies in each state, despite the official federal minimum wage. For example, the current federal minimum wage is set at $7.25, whereas Illinois offers $8.25. Some states base their minimum wage upon the federal’s; in Alaska, the minimum wage is placed 50 cents above the federal minimum, placing it at $7.75. In addition, jobs that involve money from tips may have a lower minimum wage.

Your state’s minimum wage and other details can be found here. It must also be shown on any labor law posters posted in a workplace.


Recognizing Discrimination

In British English, the word “discrimination” is often perceived as an admirable characteristic as it indicates notable perception and insight. In American English, however, the word’s meaning is drastically different; the dictionary defines it as the “treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group , class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit.”

This latter meaning is commonly used when one refers to employment discrimination. In America, labor laws expressly prohibit the denial of one’s job application or the firing of an individual based on their race, age, gender, religion, height, weight, nationality, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity.  Although the exact punishment largely varies per state, violation of these laws frequently leads to excessive fines and/or vulnerability to the consequences of a hate crime.

The American English definition began evolving roughly at the time of the American Civil War. While it was formerly directed largely towards blacks, the meaning gradually widened in scope and eventually encompassed all forms of prejudice stated in American labor laws.

Wisconsin Labor Law Changes

Late last Friday, the Wisconsin budget committee issued a series of new policies as part of their state budget bill.  According to Gov. Scott Walker, these changes, which approves bail bondsmen in Wisconsin, sales tax exemptions for snow-making equipment and direct mail promotions, changing child labor laws, and blocking local regulations on bird hunting preserves, and the 2011-13 state budget itself “is consistent with the governor’s priorities – it nearly eliminates the $3.6 billion budget deficit without raising taxes.”

Many of the newly proposed policies in the bill are appropriate for such a budget because of their notable financial implications, should the bill be passed.

Below are some of the changes introduced by Joint Finance:

Requiring local governments to use contractors, in place of of their own road crews, for certain projects that cost more than $100,000. Critics have said that this could increase costs for deficient cash cities and counties.

Providing an exemption from the state sales tax in the amount of $150,000-a-year  for grooming and snow-making equipment used by trails and ski slopes.

Providing an exemption from the sales tax in the amount of $500,000-a-year for direct-mail advertising.

Revising child labor laws to desist with a prohibition on minors under age 18 working more than 40 hours or six days a week. In addition, the bill would also repeal the prohibition against minors under 16 working more than 24 hours a week, replacing that with a limit of 18 hours of work in a school week or 40 hours during a week with no school in session. This change effectively federalizes Wisconsin’s policy on child labor.

Much controversy has accompanied these changes; particularly with the child labor laws changes. Rep. Tamara Grigsby, along with others, have questioned the new limits for child labor. Carl Miller, owner of Miller & Sons Supermarket in Verona, explains that while some of his 17-year-old employees might be able to work more hours, they would still have high school obligations.

“When it comes down to it, we believe school comes first,” he said.

While Miller and many others may have that priority in mind, irresponsible parents and ignorant minors may not. Critics of this change express concern over how students’ grades may change in response to their increased freedom in regards to work hours. A writer on writes, “I fear this change will result in teens working more and more hours each week and earning lower and lower grades as a result.”

In addition, Miller & Sons Supermarket and similar businesses stated that while it may greatly affect minors, it isn’t expected to strongly alter business.


New CEPA Decision from NJ Supreme Court

On June 9, 2011 the NJ Supreme Court decided an important case under NJ’s whistleblower law, commonly known as CEPA.  (If you really must ask, it’s short for “Conscientious Employee Protection Act.”)  The case is Donelson v. DuPont Chambers Works.

CEPA has been around since 1986 and has a well-established history of decisional law through the courts. The Donelson case involves a new twist on CEPA, never before addressed by the Court, and it drew the attention of the National Employment Lawyers Association/New Jersey (an organization of plainitffs’ lawyers), and the Academy of New Jersey Management (self-evident), both of which filed friend of the court briefs.  Taking diametrically opposed positions, as you might expect.

The narrow but important issue the court decided was “whether recovery for economic losses associated with back and front pay requires proof of actual or constructive discharge” in a CEPA case.  The twist here was that the plaintiff went out on disability after making his complaint about safety conditions in the workplace, following a period in which he claimed that he was subjected to harsh retaliatory treatment, and never returned.

DuPont claimed…(read more)


One and Fourteen

At the beginning of July, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy signed into law two important new employment laws. First, he signed Public Act 11-52, An Act Mandating Employers Provide Paid Sick Leave to Employees, the first of its kind to be passed by a state. This new statute orders employers with fifty or more employees who do not already provide at least five days a year of paid leave to provide up to five days a year of paid sick time. Clearly, not every employer is covered. In addition, not every type of employee is covered (even for covered employers), since employees are not eligible for paid sick time until they have worked for a total of 680 hours. Still, Connecticut is the first state to mandate paid sick time in any form, and this is a very significant development.

Connecticut also became the fourteenth state (plus DC for a total of fifteen state and state-like jurisdictions) to prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression. Public Act 11-55, An Act Concerning Discrimination is the statute. Connecticut prohibits discrimination in a variety of contexts outside of employment as well, from housing to provision of utilities, and it added gender identity or expression to most if not all of these. Connecticut also prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, but that status is not as broadly protected as the new addition.