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Don't HR Alone #2 - Drug Usage Up, Living Wage Changes

Consumer prices. The CPI-W increased 0.3 percent in April before seasonal adjustment. The index level of 238.432 was 2.1 percent higher than in April 2016. The CPI-U also rose 0.3 percent in April before seasonal adjustment. The index level of 244.524 was 2.2 percent higher than in April 2016.

Equal pay. On May 4, 2017, a new law was enacted in New York City that bars public and private employers from inquiring about or relying on a job applicant’s salary history when determining his or her salary during the hiring process (including the negotiation of a contract). Employers may, however, discuss with job applicants their expectations about salary, benefits, and other compensation. Also, where an applicant voluntarily and without prompting discloses salary history, the employer may consider it to determine salary, benefits, and other compensation for the applicant, and may verify that salary history. The new local law applies only to new hires — not to internal candidates for transfer or promotion.

Also, under Executive Order 161, state employers in New York may not ask or mandate that applicants provide their current compensation or history of prior compensation until the applicant is extended a conditional offer of employment with compensation. Once a conditional offer has been extended, the state entity may request and verify compensation information. Also, if prior compensation is known, it may not be relied on to determine salary, unless required by law or a collective bargaining agreement.

The two measures are aimed at halting the cycle of suppressed wages for women and people of color.

Local living wages. Georgia law currently prohibits local government entities from mandating a wage rate or employment benefit that is not required under state or federal law. Benefits that may not be mandated include health, death, disability, and group accidental and dismemberment benefits; paid holidays, sick leave, vacation, and personal necessity days off; retirement benefits; and profit-sharing benefits. A new law, effective July 1, 2017, amends this list of employment benefits to include “additional pay based on schedule changes.”

Union avoidance. On May 10, 2017, the Fifth Circuit granted the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) a 30-day extension of time — until June 21, 2017 — to file its opening brief in the agency’s appeal of a Texas district court ruling that found the agency’s persuader rule “defective to its core.” The controversial final rule, permanently enjoined on November 16, 2016, would expand reporting requirements when employers hire third-party consultants (including attorneys) to help craft and deliver messages to workers about unionization. According to the DOL’s motion, the extension is necessary because the Acting Solicitor General, the Civil Division of the Department of Justice, and the new DOL leadership need additional time to consult about this litigation.

Drug testing. Drug use in the American workforce, fueled by illicit drugs, reached the highest positivity rate in 12 years, according to Quest Diagnostics’ latest Drug Testing Index. The overall positivity in urine drug testing was 4.2 percent in 2016, a 5-percent relative increase over the 4.0-percent rate in 2015, and the highest annual positivity rate since 2004 when it was 4.5 percent. While the national dialogue is focused on opiate issues, the study found that cocaine — a substance with well-established dangers — is continuing its troubling upswing in both the general workforce and in safety-sensitive jobs with federally mandated testing. Also, in Colorado and Washington, the first states where recreational marijuana use was legalized, the overall urine positivity rate for marijuana outpaced the national average for the first time since the statutes took effect.

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