When it comes to 2020 employee rights laws, there is one clear trend: the majority of additions and updates to both federal and state legislation is focused on improving the lives of our nation’s employees. 

Whether it’s a state law requiring paid leave, an increase in minimum wage, or a federal law upping the overtime salary threshold, there’s a lot changing this year in the world of employment law. Let’s take a look at what the 2020 employee rights laws are as an employee in the U.S. 

Remember this is not official legal advice. If you have any concerns about employee rights, it’s best to consult an employment lawyer. Also, be sure to check your with your state and local governments to make sure you’re up to speed on all of the changes happening in your area. 

Federal Overtime Salary Threshold Change

The Department of Labor issued a final rule that raised the the salary threshold requirement for overtime exemption under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The change went into effect on Jan. 1, 2020. 

Under the new rule, the minimum salary requirement for administrative, professional, and executive exemptions increased from $455 per week to $684 per week, or $35,568 per year.

What does this mean for you?

The increased threshold means that 1.3 million workers who did not previously have overtime eligibility will now be able to receive extra pay for extra hours. Your employer has a couple of options on how to stay compliant while meeting the requirements for the new law. If you make $684 or less per week, you can expect one of two things to happen. 

The first option your employer has is to raise your salary to fall under the minimum requirement. This route can only be taken if you pass these exemption tests

If your role does not pass the exemption tests, or if your employer chooses not to raise your wages, then you will most likely be considered a non-exempt employee. This means if you work more than 40 hours a week, you’ll be entitled to 1.5 times your normal pay. 

California’s AB5 Bill 

The State of California recently passed Assembly Bill 5—also known as the “gig worker bill”—which limits employers’ use of independent contractors in the gig economy. 

The new law is aimed at protecting employees of companies that hire a large number of gig workers such as Uber, Lyft, and Postmates. However, it will also largely impact California employers across several industries. The law took effect on January 1, 2020. 

AB5 requires employers who hire independent contractors to reclassify them as employees if the work performed does not pass a three-pronged test. You must be classified as an employee if the employer cannot prove the following things: 

  1. The worker can perform services free from the control or direction of the employer. 
  2. The worker’s tasks are outside of the “usual course” of the business’s activities.
  3. The worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as that involved in the work performed.

What does this mean? 

The biggest impact AB5 has on workers is the obvious one—it will turn hundreds of thousands of contract gig workers into bonafide employees. If this is the case with your position, you must be paid at least minimum wage, and you are legally entitled to the same benefits, putting you on essentially a level playing field as other employees. 

A potential disadvantage to the law is that since you are now on the same level as regular employees, you might be expected to follow the same standards in connection with the performance of your work. This means, for example, that ride-hailing or delivery drivers may not get to enjoy the flexibility of when and where they work like they have in the past.

New Jersey and New York’s Salary History Ban Law

In the states of New Jersey and New York, employers are no longer allowed to question job applicants about how much money they make in their current position, thanks to Assembly Bill 1094. This includes questions about both wages and benefits. 

The two states followed suit of 15 other statewide laws in the U.S. that have already implemented this law aimed at promoting equal pay across industries, including states such as Alabama, California, and Connecticut, to name a few. 

Other states have plans to implement the rule in the future. For example, Colorado will also prohibit salary history inquiries on Jan. 1, 2021. 

What does this mean?

The new laws mean that since businesses can no longer ask you about your salary history in an interview, how much you make right now or have made in the past will not affect how much you’ll be paid in the future, and your salary or hourly wage has a higher chance of being on par with other employees in the same role as you. 

Nevada’s Marijuana Drug Testing Rule

Nevada is the first state to ban businesses from refusing to hire most job applicants for testing positive for marijuana in drug screening tests, thanks to Assembly Bill 132. The law, which also went into effect on Jan. 1, 2020, does not include lines of work such as drivers, EMTs, firefighters, or anyone who could potentially put others at risk through their use of the legal drug. 

What does this mean?

Since both medical and recreational marijuana is legal in the state of Nevada, the law joins a list of discrimination laws aimed at preventing employers from refusing to hire someone for partaking in legal activities. 

Paid Leave Additions and Updates

Eligible employees in five states—and the District of Columbia—now (or will in the near future) either have access to paid family and medical leave for the first time, or receive updated benefits. Let’s take a look at each state’s newly implemented or upgraded laws. 

New York

New York employers are in the middle of a four-year phase in for the state’s Paid Family Leave benefit. As of January 1, 2020, farm laborers and other eligible employees will have access to a 10-week period of leave to bond with a new child, care for a family member with a serious health condition, or assist loved ones when a family member is deployed on active military service. 

The Paid Family Leave wage replacement benefit also increases in 2020—employees taking paid time off will now receive 60% of their average weekly wage, up to a cap of 60% of the current Statewide Average Weekly Wage of $1,401.17. The maximum weekly benefit for 2020 is $840.70. 

Washington

If you work in Washington, you now have access to paid leave for the first time. The state’s Paid Family and Medical Leave law stipulates that as of January 1, you can apply to up to 12 to 18 weeks of paid leave if you have worked a minimum of 820 hours in a year. 

You can take the leave for the birth of a child, the care of a qualifying family member with a serious illness, or to spend time with a family member on leave from the military. If you take the leave, you could receive up to 90 percent of your weekly pay, or up to $1,000 a week. 

California

Beginning July 1, 2020, California’s current state policy of a required six weeks of paid family leave will be increased to eight weeks of benefits. 

The paid time off can be used to care for a seriously ill family member or to bond with a child within one year of the birth, adoption, or foster care placement of the child. The law provides about 60-70% of wages earned 5 to 18 months before your claim start date.  

Nevada 

Nevada’s Mandatory Paid Leave law went into effect on January 1, 2020. The new law requires that private employers with 50 or more employees must provide .01923 hours of paid leave for each hour of work performed to all employees (including part-time staff members). 

District of Columbia 

Beginning July 1, 2020, all private employers must provide up to eight weeks of paid parental leave to bond with a new child, six weeks of paid family leave to care for an eligible family member with a serious health condition, and two weeks of paid medical leave to care for their own serious health condition. 

New Jersey

Beginning July 1, 2020, the amount of paid leave employees will be able to take will double, going from 6 consecutive weeks during any 12-month period to 12 consecutive weeks. 

During that time, employees will receive 85% of their weekly wage, with the maximum possible benefit increasing to 70% of the statewide average weekly wage. The new legislation will also increase the intermittent leave workers will be able to take from 42 days to 56 days. 

Still need more information on what your state allows and prohibits when it comes to employment? Check out our state-by-state labor law guides to learn more about how compliant your employer is and what your rights are as an employee. 

Remember this is not official legal advice. If you have any concerns about employee rights, it’s best to consult an employment lawyer.