States of Work: Salary History, Teacher Death Benefits

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By Chris Marr

Keep up with the various state and local laws that touch on labor, employment, and benefits issues with this “States of Work” roundup. Bloomberg Law’s correspondents bring you a select taste of what’s going on throughout the country.

Hawaii Salary History Ban

Hawaii became the latest state to bar employers from requiring job candidates to share their salary history. Gov. David Ige (D) signed S.B. 2351 into law on July 6, and it takes effect Jan. 1, 2019. The measure also bans employers from requiring workers to keep quiet about their pay and from retaliating against workers who discuss salary with colleagues.

The law mirrors similar bans enacted in California, Massachusetts, New York City, and Chicago--and one partially blocked by a federal judge in Pennsylvania. The bans are aimed at combatting the wage gap between white male workers and their female and minority colleagues. Some large corporations including Amazon.com Inc., Bank of America Corp., and Google also have publicly committed to stop asking job applicants for their salary history.

Line-of-Duty Death Benefit for NH Teachers

New Hampshire teachers killed in the line of duty will be eligible for the same death benefit from the state that’s available to police officers and firefighters, under a bill Gov. Chris Sununu (R) signed into law July 2. The new law, pushed by the National Education Association’s New Hampshire affiliate, will take effect Jan. 1, 2019.

The legislation comes in response to growing concerns about school shootings. It provides $10 million for school security improvements in addition to the death benefit, which applies to any public school or university employee.

Denver Employee Ethics Rules

Denver city employees generally must comply with ethics rules barring them from being showered with gifts from outside donors, but “freebies” within government are okay, the Denver City Council decided July 9.

The council unanimously approved an amendment exempting city officials and departments from being viewed as donors when doling out commemorative swag and gewgaws--even if trying to win favor for contracting decisions and other internal city business. However, the amendment requires city officials to fill out a new semiannual report listing anything they get worth more than $50.

NYC Workforce, Labor Deals Scrutinized

A nonpartisan budget watchdog group in New York turned its scrutiny in the past week to New York City’s deals with construction unions and the cost of the city’s growing municipal workforce.

The Citizens Budget Commission wrote to Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) July 5, questioning whether the city has gotten its money’s worth on four project labor agreements (PLAs). The agreements with the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York promised $347 million in savings on $8 billion worth of capital projects. The watchdog group says the savings haven’t been measured, nor have other benefits such as job opportunities for minorities, veterans, and others.

The CBC also warned in a July 10 report that growth in the city’s municipal workforce under de Blasio will be costly. The head count is projected to rise to 331,520 by the end of fiscal 2019. The personnel expenses for full-time positions added since fiscal 2014 are $2.5 billion, plus $521 million in long-term liabilities, the commission said.

Ohio Public Worker ‘Opt Out’ Aid

Columbus-based free-market think tank the Buckeye Institute is hosting a public worker “opt out” website that invites public employees in Ohio to find their unions, analyze their opt-out requirements, and get instructions on how to opt out of their worker organizations.

The think tank launched the website July 10. It said the intent is to make workers aware of their right to choose whether they join a union and pay dues following the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 27 decision in Janus v. AFSCME. In that case, the court’s majority found that public-sector unions can’t force government employees to pay agency or “fair share” fees if they opt not to join.

With reporting by Tripp Baltz in Denver, Alex Ebert in Columbus, John Herzfeld in New York, and Aaron Nicodemus in Boston.

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