Changes to Workplace Law for 2020


Welcome to 2020. There are several new laws taking effect this year. We’ve compiled many of these changes so you can learn more about these new laws and their impact on your workplace. We will go into more detail at Advocacy@Work this spring and instruct you on using your voice to make a difference on policies such as these that impact you, your employer and the employees you serve. Additionally, next Wednesday, you can join our team for a webinar on the public policy outlook for California in 2020.

Overtime Rule

In September of 2019, DOL issued a final rule that provides a reasonable update to the salary threshold to qualify for overtime pay and makes other changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) overtime exemption provisions. Employees who make less than $35,568 are now eligible for overtime pay under a final rule. 

The final rule includes numerous provisions that SHRM advocated for in recent years. The rule marks the first increase to the salary threshold since 2004 and provides increased certainty for employers.  

The new rate became effective Jan. 1, 2020.

Paid Leave

The House Education and Labor Committee may consider mandatory paid family leave proposals, while the House Ways and Means Committee could examine a proposal to provide paid leave through a new payroll tax. Paid leave is a prevalent issue for state legislatures too. Already, California, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island have paid family leave with many more states considering action in 2020. Some of those are Virginia, Maryland, Colorado, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.

As of Jan. 1, paid family and medical leave benefits became available to employees in Washington. The law applies to most employers in the state, though employers with fewer than 50 employees need not pay the employer portion of the premiums.

Also as of Jan. 1, Nevada now requires private-sector employers to provide employees with up to 40 hours of paid leave per benefit year for any reason.

Employees will become eligible for paid-leave benefits in Washington, D.C., beginning July 1, 2020, and employees will fund Connecticut's new paid-leave program by contributing 0.5 percent of their income via a mandatory payroll tax, with contributions commencing in January 2021.

As of Jan. 1, 2023, a paid-leave law will take effect in Oregon, providing 12 weeks of paid leave to virtually every employee in the state.

SHRM believes that the U.S. must have a 21st-century workplace flexibility policy that works for employers and employees alike, helping both meet work/life and organizational needs.

Appearance Discrimination

Last year, California passed a law, effective as of Jan. 1, protecting employees from discrimination based on natural hair and hairstyles associated with race. New York also banned hairstyle discrimination last year, effective July 12, 2019, as did New Jersey on Dec. 19, 2019.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has challenged grooming and appearance policies for targeting certain hairstyles associated with race, and such policies are facing increased scrutiny from courts.

Pre-Employment Marijuana Testing

On Jan. 1, a Nevada law took effect barring employers from considering a pre-employment marijuana test result, and beginning May 10, a New York City law will prohibit employers from conducting pre-employment marijuana tests. Both laws have exceptions for safety-sensitive positions and jobs regulated by federal programs that require drug testing.

More Predictable-Scheduling Laws

Among other things, these laws require some employers, namely retail stores and restaurants, to provide advance notice of work schedules. San Francisco was the first city to enact a predictable-scheduling law in 2015, and Oregon was the first state in 2017. New York City, Seattle, and other locations followed suit, and cities such as Chicago and Philadelphia have laws taking effect in 2020.


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