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 Noncompetition – H.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 Identity– S.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 Coverage – Utah 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 Positions – H.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 Violence – S.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.