State Labor Legislation Roundup

With a majority of states now adjourned for the year, below is a look at some of the important legislative developments that took place in the labor/employment space this year. We explore three trending labor issues from the states - Captive Audience, Noncompetes, and Warehouse laws.

In addition, linked here is a "Labor Hotlist", which features a list of important legislation that has been enacted this year. Note: this list of bills is not meant to be comprehensive, and does not list all of the labor bills relevant to retailers. The list also does not show pending legislation in states that currently have active sessions.

Labor Legislation Roundup

States are increasingly taking action on non-competes, captive audience meetings, and protecting warehouse workers. RILA is preparing for additional activity in these areas in 2024.

Captive Audience Laws - Minnesota will soon prohibit employers from requiring employees to attend political or religious meetings, including talks about labor unions. Similar legislation was signed in Maine yesterday, and is expected to be signed in New York. If signed, New York will join Connecticut, Maine, Minnesota, and Oregon for a total of five states with captive audience bans. Additionally, a pending bill in California (SB 399) has already passed the Senate and is currently making its way through the assembly - the bill was scheduled for a hearing yesterday in the Judiciary Committee.
  • In addition to the states mentioned above, eight other states introduced captive audience bans this year - Alaska, New Hampshire, New Jersey (pending), New Mexico, Pennsylvania (pending), Rhode Island (passed 1 chamber), Vermont (passed 1 chamber), and Washington.
Noncompete Agreements - States are leading the charge against non-compete agreements. The rising criticism of noncompetes dates back to 2016 when President Obama (D) urged states to ban or limit noncompete agreements. At the time, three states — California, Oklahoma, and North Dakota — had longstanding laws on the books to broadly prohibit noncompetes of any kind. Since then, most states that have enacted restrictions on non-competes have focused on limiting non-competes only for employees that earn below a certain salary threshold, leaving noncompete agreements in place for many high-income workers. That changed earlier this year when Minnesota enacted a broad ban on noncompete agreements. Following Minnesota, New York appears to be on their way to passing a similar all out ban if Governor Hochul signs SB 3100 into law. If signed, New York will join California, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Oklahoma as the five most restrictive states with regard to limiting the use of non compete agreements.

Warehouse Laws - Over the last few legislative cycles, state lawmakers have shown an increased interest in passing laws to protect manual workers at large warehouses. To date, four states have passed laws to increase protection for warehouse workers, CaliforniaMinnesotaNew York, and Washington. California was the first state in the country to pass a law back in 2021, New York passed their law in 2022, and Minnesota and Washington passed their laws this earlier this year. All four laws are generally similar to one another and use California's original language as a model. With that said, there are some distinctions between the laws. For example, Minnesota's law creates a first-of-its-kind "ergonomics requirement" to reduce the risk of repetitive strain injuries amongst workers. It also establishes a process for employees to report injuries and recommend possible solutions to reduce risks. Another distinction is that California and Minnesota allow for a private right of action against an employer - Washington and New York do not.

We strongly encourage folks to get involved with our partners in the State Retail Associations (SRA). The SRAs are a key source of information on what is happening in state capitals. Below are a few of the key SRAs that are especially active on labor legislation.
Retail Council of New York
Illinois Retail Merchants Association
California Retailers Association
Washington Retail Association
New Jersey Retail Merchants Association
Retail Association of Maine
Retailers Association of Massachusetts
Minnesota Retailers Association
  • Workforce
  • Forced Labor
  • Public Policy

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