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Employer Speech Limits in Connecticut, Florida Among July 1 Laws

June 21, 2022, 9:31 AM

New limits in Connecticut and Florida on the messages that businesses can require their employees to hear are among a litany of state and local employment law changes set to take effect July 1.

In Connecticut, the Democratic-majority legislature is limiting employers’ anti-union efforts by barring them (Act 22-24) from firing or otherwise disciplining workers who refuse to attend company meetings where the primary focus is political or religious matters—including the decision to join a labor union.

The Republican-led statehouse in Florida passed its measure (HB 7) to prevent diversity training sessions as well as public school lessons that teach any one of a long list of forbidden concepts, including that a person “must feel guilt” over past actions of people who share their same race, color, sex, or national origin. The law is an extension of the trend among many GOP-majority state legislatures to ban the teaching of critical race theory and similar concepts in schools.

The two states’ laws are some of the more controversial items among the many changes in state and local employment laws that will become effective July 1. Other state measures going into effect that day include annual minimum wage increases, revised limits on employee noncompete clauses, and new bans on workplace discrimination related to traditionally Black hairstyles and textures, known as the CROWN Act.

Whether the new Florida law actually takes effect July 1 will be up to federal courts. The effective date stands for now, but challengers—including school teachers, a workplace training provider, and a kindergartner—have sued in federal court, calling the law an overly broad restriction on free speech and asking a judge to block it from taking effect.

Opponents of the Connecticut law banning “captive audience” meetings have warned that it’s also likely to face litigation challenging its constitutionality. Oregon is the only other state with a similar restriction on workplace meetings, but there’s also been recent federal movement toward limiting employers’ use of such sessions. National Labor Relations Board General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo in April told the NLRB’s regional directors that she would seek to ban mandatory anti-union meetings in the workplace nationwide.

Spread of CROWN Act

On a more bipartisan note, new laws in Maine and Tennessee join the growing movement toward banning discrimination based on hairstyles or textures.

In Tennessee—where the Democratic-sponsored measure passed through a GOP-majority legislature—a new law taking effect July 1 bans employers from preventing their workers from wearing certain hairstyles. The legislation, however, restricts employees’ ability to sue over hair-related discrimination and instead directs complaints to the state labor commissioner.

Maine’s measure, which adds language covering hairstyles and textures to the state’s existing ban on racial bias, takes effect Aug. 8.

Counting these new laws, 16 states and a few dozen local governments have enacted the CROWN Act or legislation inspired by it, according to the CROWN Coalition, which advocates for bans on discrimination against traditionally Black hairstyles and textures.

The US House also has passed a federal version of the CROWN Act, although the Senate has yet to take it up.

Noncompetes, Paid Leave, Wages

An assortment of other new employment laws take effect July 1, unless otherwise noted.

Among them, effective Aug. 10, Colorado will ban employee noncompete clauses for workers making less than $101,250 annually—with that salary threshold to increase each year based on inflation. The state also will ban nonsolicitation clauses, which block workers from leaving a company and immediately trying to woo away its customers, for employees making more than 60% of the noncompete income threshold.

In Alabama, employers that choose to provide paid leave for new parents also will be required (Act 2022-424) to provide an equivalent amount or at least two weeks of paid leave for adoptions, whichever is less.

Tennessee enacted a ban on employers paying subminimum wages to workers with disabilities. The state joins a handful of others in barring employers from using federal 14c waivers, as interest grows at both the state and federal level in phasing out the 80-year-old program.

Minimum wage increases and other changes also take effect July 1 in several states and cities, including:

  • Chicago’s minimum wage rises to $15.40 per hour for employers with 21 or more workers. The city also revised its Fair Workweek ordinance, requiring covered employers to post employees’ work schedules at least 14 days in advance, an increase from the previous 10-day requirement.
  • Connecticut’s minimum wage increases to $14.
  • The District of Columbia minimum wage rises to $16.10.
  • The Minneapolis minimum wage increases to $15 for employers with more than 100 workers and to $13.50 for smaller employers.
  • Nevada’s minimum wage goes up to $9.50 for employees who are offered qualifying health-care benefits, or $10.50 for those who aren’t.
  • Oregon’s minimum wages increase to $14.75 in metro Portland, $12.50 in nonurban counties, and $13.50 in the rest of the state.

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Marr in Atlanta at cmarr@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Martha Mueller Neff at mmuellerneff@bloomberglaw.com