Idaho Enacts Law Providing Tax Credits for Private Employers

On the final day of the sixty-first Legislature, Idaho lawmakers passed a bill which provides varying levels of tax credits for private employers who hire at least one employee after April 15, 2011. Governor Otter signed the legislation amending Idaho Code section 63-3029F on April 13.

In order to qualify for the credit, a newly hired employee must receive qualifying employer-provided health care benefits as determined by the Idaho State Tax Commission and be employed in a county within in the state of Idaho with an unemployment rate at or greater than the benchmarked annual employment rate as determined by the Department of Labor on the date the new employee was hired.  That benchmark is either ten percent (10%) or more at average annual earnings of twelve dollars ($12.00) or more per hour, or less than ten percent (10%) at average annual earnings of fifteen dollars ($15.00) or more per hour.   The available credit is not earned, however, until the new employee has worked for a minimum of nine consecutive months with any part of the qualifying period ending during the taxable year for which the credit is claimed. Additionally, the credit is not available when an employer acquires a trade or business or who operates in a place of business the same or substantially identical trade or business as operated by another qualifying business within the prior twelve months. Employees transferred from a related business shall also not be included in the computation of the credit.

The amount of the credit varies between 2-6% depending on how the employer is rated for unemployment tax purposes.   Employers with a positive rating earn the highest amount of the credit while deficit rated business earn the lower amount. The credit is calculated based on the gross salary paid to the eligible new employee during the initial twelve months of employment and claimed during the qualifying taxable year.

The Tax Commission is charged with promulgating rules implementing the legislation.  To claim the credit, rated employers must attach to the employer's income tax return the taxable wage rate notice issued by the department of labor for the income tax year for which the credit is claimed.   An estimate of the financial impact from the Department of Labor and Division of Financial Management indicates that the legislation could draw $7.9 million per year from the general fund while generating $25.3 million in state tax revenue.

This legislation is very complex and may be difficult for employers to determine whether they may quality for the credit.  If you have questions, please contact your attorney.

Utah: 2011 Legislative Session Winners and Losers

The 59th legislative session of the Utah State Legislature ended last week. Below is a list of the winners and losers from legislative session preview post on February 18, 2011(and a couple of notable additions).

WINNERS 

Immigration – Three highly controversial immigration bills affecting employment passed Utah’s House and Senate and were signed by Governor Gary Herbert on March 15, 2011. 

  • H.B. 497 grants immigration authority to state and local police to enforce general federal immigration laws when a person has been lawfully stopped, detained, or arrested for class a misdemeanors and felonies. 
  • H.B. 116 establishes a guest worker program for undocumented workers that would require background checks, proof of insurance and a Utah driving privilege card.
  • H.B. 466 creates a state program coordinated with the federal guest worker program to begin a partnership between Utah and Mexico to allow Mexican temporary workers to work in Utah.

For more information and various perspectives on these bills see our prior post on the immigration issue and other local news sources.

Community Service for Medicaid CoverageUtah lawmakers approved H.B. 211 creating a pilot program requiring a small number of Medicaid recipients to do community service in exchange for medical coverage.

More Tax Breaks for New Full-Time Positions – The legislature also passed H.B. 17 which modifies provisions related to tax credits which may be claimed for new full-time employee positions to allow certain credits to be taken in consecutive years.

Construction Employees v. Owners – Both the House and Senate approved S.B. 35 targeting construction firms that classify employees as owners in order to avoid paying workers' compensation insurance premiums, contributing to unemployment insurance, or withholding taxes. The bill would require construction owners to file an annual ownership status report and includes penalties for violations for misclassifying employees and depriving employees of workers' compensation coverage, among other things. If signed by Governor Herbert, the bill will take effect July 1.

Worker Misclassification Task Force– S.B. 11 has been approved by the legislature and signed by Governor Herbert. This bill sets up a new task force for various state agencies to discuss and coordinate their efforts to enforce rules against the classification of workers as owners or as independent contractors.

LOSERS

Immigration H.B. 253 would have required employer registration with E-Verify, but was defeated in the Senate.

Employee NoncompetitionH.B. 417, defeated in the House, would have enacted the Noncompetition Contract Act, which would have prohibited the enforcement of a noncompetition agreement against an employee who is discharged because of a reduction in force.

Gender IdentityS.B. 148 adding “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” to the list of protected classes under Utah discrimination in employment and housing statutes was defeated in the Senate.

Employment Practices & Protection from ViolenceS.B. 40 giving victims of violence the right to sue an employer that denies extra time off work was defeated in the Senate. 

Oregon: 2011 Legislative Session Preview

Oregon’s 76th Legislative Assembly convened on February 1, 2011. The Legislature has wasted no time introducing a multitude of new labor and employment bills, some with potentially far reaching effects. Below is a (non-exhaustive) list of some of the more interesting bills up for debate:

Civil Rights:

  • HB 2035 -- Standardizes statute of limitations period for filing discrimination lawsuits. A person who has filed a BOLI complaint must file a lawsuit within one year of the occurrence of the unlawful practice or within 90 days of the mailing of BOLI’s 90-day notice, whichever is later.
  • HB 2036 -- This bill was introduced at the request of the Commissioner of BOLI, and attempts to accomplish several significant changes. First, it proposes to lower the standard as to what’s considered a “substantial limitation in a major life activity,” and clarifies certain aspects of state statutes related to discrimination against individuals with disabilities. Second, it grants BOLI the authority to enforce provisions for employees to take crime victim leave to attend criminal proceedings. Third, it will allow employers to make decisions based on credit history of applicants for public safety officer employment.
  • HB 2243 -- Allows Attorney General or BOLI to file suit related to discrimination against person for uniformed military service; includes $50,000 penalty for first violation, and $100,000 penalty for each subsequent violation.
  • HB 2446 and HB 2771 seek to respectively amend and repeal ORS 659.70 and 659.785 related to workplace communication on employer opinions on religion and politics. While HB 2771 would seek to repeal those provisions entirely, HB 2446 seeks to amend the definitions and exceptions to those provisions and amend the damages as well.
  • HB 2828 -- Would make it unlawful (including a civil penalty of $750) to cease to provide health, disability, life or other insurance during period employee serves on a jury.
  • HB 2862 -- This bill would extend various anti-discrimination laws to persons working for educational purposes or as volunteers.

Leave:

  • HB 2095 -- Requires granting family leave under OFLA for academic activities of the employee’s child, including teacher conferences or meetings, and requires granting up to 18 hours of family leave for academic activities in a one-year period, but not more than six hour per calendar month.
  • SB 506 -- Allows eligible employee to take family leave related to the death of a family member.
  • HB 2850 -- Adds siblings as covered family members under OFLA.

Wage and Hour:

  • HB 2038 -- Modifies expression of breast milk provisions. Requires employers to provide a reasonable rest period each time an employee has a need to express milk and eliminates the undue hardship exception for employees with 50 or more employees
  • HB 2040 -- Requires unpaid wages requested by employee post-termination or discharge to be mailed by certified mail, return receipt request.  
  • HB 2230 -- Requires employers to offer first payment to a new employee within 14 days of employment, unless declined by employee. Carries a maximum fine of $720 for violations.
  • HB 2861 -- Expands Oregon’s wage discrimination law to bar wage discrimination based on a more expansive list of protected classifications, not just sex.

Other:

  •  Immigration: HB 2802 and HB 2973 include a variety of immigration-related provisions, some of which would affect employers. One such provision includes a prohibition against knowingly employing unauthorized aliens, which includes a maximum six-month prison sentence and/or up to $2,500 fine. Another would require employers to verify immigration status of employees hired after January 1, 2012, and authorizes the Attorney General to investigate violations and suspend or revoke business licenses of violators. 
  •  Health Care Employees: SB 199 -- Requires health care facilities/employers of 25 or more employees to provide mandatory annual vaccinations against influenza, varicella zoster, pertussis, Hepatitis B, measles, mumps and rubella at no cost to employees.

World of Employment will keep you updated regarding the status of these (and other) bills up for debate this legislative session, and will provide an end-of-session wrap-up of the winners and losers.

Utah: 2011 Legislative Session Preview

The 59th legislative session of the Utah State Legislature convened in January, and several labor and employment-related bills were introduced. We’ve highlighted some of the more interesting bills below.

 

  •  Immigration – Immigration is an issue that has been a subject of intense debate in Utah and nationally and multiple bills have been proposed on the issue this session.
    • H.B. 116 would establish a guest worker program for undocumented workers that would require background checks, proof of insurance and a Utah driving privilege card.
    • H.B. 253 would require businesses with five or more employees to register with E-Verify, the federal government’s program that tracks the legal status of workers. It would repeal the Private Employer Verification Act.
  • Employee NoncompetitionH.B. 417 would enact the Noncompetition Contract Act. The bill prohibits the enforcement of a noncompetition agreement against an employee who is discharged because of a reduction in force, but does not affect the enforcement of non-solicitation agreements or covenants not to disclose confidential information.
  • Gender IdentityS.B. 148 defines “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” and adds them to the list of prohibited bases for discrimination in employment and housing. It includes sexual orientation and gender identity as a consideration in appointments to the Antidiscrimination and Labor Advisory Council.
  •  Community Service for Medicaid CoverageUtah lawmakers have tentatively approved a proposal for a pilot program to require a small number of Medicaid recipients to do community service in exchange for medical coverage (H.B. 211).
  • More Tax Breaks for New Full-Time PositionsH.B. 17 would modify provisions related to tax credits which may be claimed for new full-time employee positions to allow certain credits to be taken in consecutive years. 
  • Construction Employees v. Owners– On February 10, 2011, the Utah House approved S.B. 35 targeting construction firms that classify employees as owners in order to avoid paying workers' compensation insurance premiums, contributing to unemployment insurance, or withholding taxes. The bill would require construction owners to file an annual ownership status report and includes penalties for violations for misclassifying employees and depriving employees of workers' compensation coverage, among other things. If signed by Gov. Gary Herbert (R), the bill will take effect July 1.
  •  Employment Practices & Protection from ViolenceS.B. 40 would allow employees who are victims of violence to sue an employer for damages who denies extra time off work for victims to seek a protective order, a stalking injunction, medical care or counseling.

We will report back later in the year on the winners and losers from this year’s session. 

Alaska: 2011 Legislative Session Preview

 

The 27th Session of the Alaska Legislature convened in January, and several labor and employment-related bills were introduced. We’ve highlighted some of the more interesting bills below.

 

Hot Topics:

  • “Alaska’s Oil, Alaska’s Jobs” -- HB 82 and SB 71 propose to authorize a rebate of the production tax on oil and gas, based on the employment of Alaska workers, expanding upon the current Alaska Employment Preference Act, AS 36.10, applicable to public construction projects.
  • “Right to Work” -- HB 134 would provide employees a choice whether or not to join or pay the union at companies that are unionized. Such State laws are allowed under 29 U.S.C. § 164(b) and 22 other states have enacted them. (See also last week’s post regarding Idaho’s right to work statute.)
  • The “Conscience Clause” -- SB 14 provides protection and “reasonable accommodation” of a health care provider’s expression of conscience regarding the provision of health care services. This expands Alaska’s current clause (AS 18.16.010) preventing healthcare providers from being forced to perform abortions, but SB 14 would broaden the “conscience” protection.
  • Safety First! -- Three bills (HB22, HB 35, and HB 65) propose to prohibit the use of cell phones when driving a motor vehicle. These bills would have a significant impact on employers dependent on drivers, because drivers will no longer be reachable en route.  However, if these bills are passed, all employers should review and update their personnel policies.

Bills Addressing Specific Employee Groups:

  • HB 51 proposes to establish child care services for state officers and employees, either in state offices or other convenient places for state officers and employees.
  • Reintroduced, SB 69 and HB 36 propose to repeal the prohibition against classified state employees participating in the management of political parties above the precinct level.
  • HB 84 and SB 38 propose a one-time death benefit for peace officers and firefighters.
  • To address the increasing shortage of healthcare professionals, HB 78 proposes a loan repayment and employment incentive program for certain healthcare professionals in Alaska.
  • HB 28 proposes temporary 180-day courtesy licenses for certain nonresident professionals regulated by Title 8, with the exception of attorneys.

Two Proposed Oversight Groups:

  • A “Workers’ Compensation Advisory Council” is reintroduced in HB 12, which also would abolish the more informal Medical Services Review Committee.
  • SB 53 proposes the “Alaska Commission on the Status of Women,” with duties including research and recommendations on opportunities for women in employment, among other areas.

Health Care Issues:

  • Proposed Alaska Constitutional Amendment HJR 5 would prohibit passage of laws that, among other things, compel a person to participate in a health care system.
  • SB 70 proposes to establish the Alaska Health Benefit Exchange, aimed to facilitate individual purchase of qualified health plans, to establish small business health options and to generally reduce the number of uninsured Alaskans.
  • Also likely directed at the new national health care law are two bills providing that Alaska will not follow unconstitutional laws. HB 8 provides that any federal act adopted in violation of the Constitution or federal statute has no effect on Alaska law. HB 88 prohibits any court or other authority from applying a law that violates an individual’s constitutional rights.

As Alaska’s short session progresses, we’ll keep you posted on these bills and others impacting the Alaska workforce.

Editor’s Note: This is just the first in a number of legislative preview posts for each of the states in which we have a presence. Stay tuned for legislative updates in Oregon, Washington, California, Utah and Idaho, as well as a federal update, in the upcoming weeks.
 

 

 

2009 Oregon Legislative Update

The Oregon Legislature was in session in 2009, and many labor and employment-related bills came up for consideration.  A complete list of the bills that passed and the bills that failed follows below (you may have to click "continue reading." 

Several passed and will become law effective January 1, 2010.  Several others didn't get the support they needed to become law, but employers may want to take note as they may gain more traction in the next legislative session. 

Notable winners:  leave for military spouses, a ban on "captive audience" union meetings, and protections for stalking victims.  Notable losers:  several attempts to clarify an employer's obligation to accommodate medical marijuana use. 

Up next:  a federal labor and employment legislation update.  Stay tuned!

The Winners:  The following Oregon bills will become law January 1, 2010.  Click on the bill number to read the full text of each bill. 

  • HB 2744 - Leave for Military Spouses.  Requires employers with 25 or more employees in Oregon to provide leave to spouses of service members prior to deployment and during leave from active duty. 
  • HB 3256 - Protections for Service Members.  Amends ORS Chapter 659A to make discrimination against an employee because of the employee’s service in a uniformed service an unlawful employment practice.
  • HB 3162 - Expanded Whistleblower Protection.  Amends ORS Chapter 659A to make discrimination against an employee who reports a violation of state for federal laws, rules or regulations an unlawful employment practice.
  • SB 519 - Political and Union Meetings.  Prohibits employer from requiring attendance in workplace meetings on political, religious or union matters.
  • SB 786 - Religious Accommodations.  Requires employers to reasonably accommodate religious practices with accommodations such as shift changes, vacation time for religious holidays, allowing religious jewelry or clothing.
  • SB 469 - Child Businesses.  Exempts children under age 17 from requirement to obtain a business license or permit for a sole proprietorship.
  • SB 60 - Expanded BOLI Collections Authority.  Expands the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries' authority to collect on judgments and orders.
  • SB 373 - Deductions for Child Support.  Allows either the obligee or the obligor under a support order to sue an employer who withholds support money but fails to pay.
  • SB 874 - ADA Amendments Act.  Conforms Oregon law with the ADA Amendments Act. 
  • HB 2826 - Child Labor.  Increases the allowed working hours for children under 16 by one hour, two hours in the summer months.
  • SB 928 - Protections for Stalking Victims.  Prohibits discrimination against victims of actual or threatened stalking, sexual assault or domestic violence, and requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for such employees. 
  • HB 2377 - Shut Up and Drive!  Prohibits the use of cell phones while operating a motor vehicle (hands-free devices allowed). 

The Losers:  the following bills will not become law this year, but  might become law following a future legislative session.

  • HB 2497; HB 3052; SB 382 - Restrictions on Medical Marijuana.  Each of these bills would have allowed employers to prohibit the use of medical marijuana in the workplace.
  • HB 2503 - Protections for Medical Marijuana Users.  Would have prohibited discrimination based on an employee’s use of medical marijuana not on employer’s property.
  • SB 427 - Drug Testing Programs.  Would have allowed employers to implement broad drug-free workplace program and provide for drug and alcohol testing policies.
  • HB 2821 - OFLA and Vacation Leave.  Would have prevented employers from forcing employees to take accrued vacation leave when taking OFLA leave.
  • HB 3053 - Paid Family Leave.  Would have created an insurance program to provide benefits to those taking OFLA leave.
  • HB 2692 - Revised OFLA Obligations.  Would have revised OFLA so that employee returning to work from leave entitled to an available equivalent position, not the same position as before taking leave.
  • HB 3053 - Minimum Wage Freeze.  Would have suspended annual increase to Oregon minimum wage for years in which Oregon’s unemployment rate exceeds the national rate.
  • SB 830 - Local Minimum Wages.  Would have directed BOLI to calculate local minimum wages based on median income of each locality.
  • HB 2692 - Punitive Damages for Whistleblowers.  Would have allowed public employees to recover punitive damages in whistleblower cases.
  • HB 3449 - Height/Weight Discrimination.  Would have made it unlawful for employers to discriminate because of an individual’s height or weight.
  • HB 2903 - Shortened Arbitration Notice.  Would have reduced from two weeks to 72 hours the time that employer must give a prospective employee written notice that an arbitration agreement will be required. 
  • HB 2890 - Defining "Employee."  Would have defined "employee" for worker classification purposes.
  • SB 638 - School Activity Leave.  Would have established leave for parents and guardians to attend school activities.
  • SB 707 - Defamation Protections.  Would have established immunity from defamation liability for employer who discloses information about employee’s job performance, unless shown to have acted in bad faith by clear and convincing evidence. 
  • HB 3403 - Final Paychecks.  Would have given employers five days from date of termination to pay final wages to employees who are fired.