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on January 6, 2020 Human Resources HR Law

Employment Law Changes for 2020, Part 1

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Welcome to the backstitch HR law blog, a series where we provide the latest updates on upcoming and recently in-effect legislation. Our blog series will provide short snippets of State, Federal, and Global changes in HR and employment law, so your organization can continue to stay up to date in the legal world.  

With 2020 now arrived, many states have their biggest legal changes going live. This 2-part special edition of the HR Law Blog will focus on the myriad of changes coming in this year. 


The overtime rule under the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) has been updated so employees who make higher than $684 a week, or $35,568 a year are exempt from overtime status, up from $455 a week or $23,660 a year. However, the special exemption from this law applies to employees that make $107,432 a year with a minimum of $684 a week; the employee primarily performs office or non-manual work; and the employee performs the exempt duties of executive, administrative, or professional work. 

Employees may also increase their 401(k) contributions, from $19,000 in 2019 to $19,500 in 2020. For employees over 50 years of age, the additional catch-up contribution has increased by $500 as well, to $6,500. Finally, the total employee/employer combined contribution has increased by one thousand dollars from $56,000 in 2019 to $57,000 in 2020. 


Alaska is one of the many states altering its minimum wage on January 1st. It will be a twenty cent increase from $9.89/hour to $10.19/hour.


Arizona will also increase its minimum wage. It will increase by one dollar from $11/hour to $12/hour. 


Arkansas is increasing its minimum wage by seventy five cents from $9.25/hour to $10/hour.


The State of California will have several new laws in place upon the new year. One of the most impactful laws is Assembly Bill 5, which deals with independent contractors. AB5 codifies the "ABC" test into law. Under ABC, all workers are automatically assumed to be employees, and instead, the employer must prove their exemption based on 3 categories: 

  • (A) The person is free from the control and direction of the hiring entity in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of the work and in fact.
  • (B) The person performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business.
  • (C) The person is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as that involved in the work performed.

It also exempts a few industries from the "ABC" test, including

"licensed insurance agents, certain licensed health care professionals, registered securities broker-dealers or investment advisers, direct sales salespersons, real estate licensees, commercial fishermen, workers providing licensed barber or cosmetology services, and others performing work under a contract for professional services, with another business entity, or pursuant to a subcontract in the construction industry."

Assembly Bill 51 will end mandatory arbitration for employment disputes regarding the Fair Employment Housing Act. AB 749 prevents settlements from having a no re-hire provision, where settling employees are barred from being rehired at the organization, subsidiaries, or parent companies. However, there is a singular exemption: if the settling employee is determined to have engaged in sexual harassment, then the employee can be prevented from being rehired at the primary organization. Under AB 1820, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing is now able to bring civil action against violation of federal anti-discrimination practices. 

Senate Bill 142 sets certain accommodations for lactation during the workplace. It also denotes that break times for lactation will be on an as-needed basis. Stations for lactation must be clean, with an area to sit, a table for equipment, and electrical outlets for plugging in devices. However, workplaces with multiple employers can have a shared space. Also, organizations of 50 or fewer employees can be exempt if the station produces an undue burden on the company. 

The Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair (CROWN) Act prevents discrimination based on an employee's hair. It expands upon protections already offered in public schools and sets up a category for protected hairstyles. For employers, CROWN prevents discrimination in the hiring of prospective employees as well as career growth for existing employees. 

California OSHA has several differences from Federal OSHA. However, a few changes will bring Cal/OSHA more in line. It has modified the definition of a serious injury and removed limitations on injuries caused by a penal code violation. It also added a new method for allowing online violations reporting, replacing an email channel. 

California will also have a sweeping privacy law, the California Consumer Privacy Act, going in place on January 1st. Included with this law are employer exemptions. For one year, employers are able to be exempt from the CCPA any information collected on employees as long as it relates to their employment context. However, the employer exemption is not all sweeping, and many things will still fall under its jurisdiction. For more information on what CCPA means for employers, read our in depth article

Finally, California is among multiple states increasing its minimum wage. For organizations of 25 or under employees, minimum wage is $12/hour, while those of 26 and up will have a minimum wage of $13/hour.


Colorado will also be increasing its minimum wage from $11.10/hour to $12/hour. It will also lift a ban on allowing local minimum wage laws, provided the annual increase is no larger than 15%. Finally, it will redefine wage theft and denote that any garnishments greater than $2,000 will be a felony


The Illinois Workplace Transparency Act is a sweeping law that amends a lot of existing laws and adds new stipulations for employer-employee relations. First, employers cannot prevent employees from disclosing any unlawful or criminal activity in the workplace. Employers also cannot force employees to waive or settle through arbitration any claims against unlawful or criminal activity. It also redefines discrimination underneath the Illinois Human Rights Act, and provides greater protections against perceived workplace discrimination. The law redefines harassment and how it pertains to creating a hostile, intimidating, or offensive working environment. It also requires annual sexual harassment training, which the State will provide at no cost to employers and employees. Finally, it modifies Victim's Economic Security and Safety Act to also include unpaid leave protections for victims of gender violence. 

Illinois has also legalized recreational marijuana. Employers are not allowed to discriminate against employees who legally indulge in marijuana usage outside the workplace. However, they are allowed to restrict or ban marijuana usage while at work or performing work duties and discipline any employees under the influence while at work. 

Illinois is the first state to provide a comprehensive law regarding the usage of AI in the hiring process. The Artificial Intelligence Video Interview Act requires that hiring departments must disclose, provide specified reasoning for, and obtain permission for the usage of AI in the interview process. 

Finally, Illinois is also one of the many states increasing their minimum wage, from $8.25/hour to $9.25/hour.


To prevent identity theft, Maine will prevent employers from requesting an applicant's Social Security number during the hiring process. However, employers may collect that information for a background check. 

Maine will also increase its minimum wage by one dollar from $11/hour to $12/hour.


Maryland is amongst the states that will increase its minimum wage, from $10.10/hour to $11.00/hour. 


Massachusetts will increase their minimum wage from $12.00/hour to $12.75/hour. 


Michigan will increase their minimum wage by twenty cents, from $9.46/hour to $9.65/hour. 

Make sure your company will be compliant with these new updates to avoid costly penalties and lost productivity. Follow this series to ensure your company is compliant with the many employment law changes happening in the future. 

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Liang Deng

Chief of Staff

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