New State Laws in 2022
Many state laws are going into effect as 2021 becomes 2022. These new laws cover a range of issues, but many of them cover the aftermath of the pandemic, including pressure for more employee rights and continued efforts to carve out exceptions to federal vaccine mandates that may simultaneously go into effect in January 2022.
Minimum Wage Laws
Multiple states will raise the minimum wage beginning in 2022. California will raise the minimum wage to $14/hour for employers with 25 or few employees and $15/hour for employers with more than 25 employees. This is a $1 increase in the minimum wage for Californians from last year. Most other states are following suite, though their increases may be more modest.
Hair Discrimination Laws
Illinois, North Carolina, and Oregon will make discrimination based on hairstyle illegal. These laws were passed after a black student in an Illinois school was asked to remove his braids because they violated the school’s dress code. Hairstyle discrimination is arguably an extension of racial discrimination, as some racial groups may have distinctive hairstyles.
California will prohibit an employer from requiring an employee to sign non-disparagement agreements relating to unlawful workplace acts, including discrimination and harassment. A California employer cannot illegally terminate an employee and expect the employee to remain silent. This law will lead to decreased flexibility in settlement negotiations between employers and employees. However, it is consistent with the public policy that wrongdoers should not profit from their own misconduct.
Food Delivery Apps
Food delivery app companies like Doordash, Uber Eats, and Grubhub may see a decline in their profitability in 2022. California will make it illegal for food delivery apps to retain any portion of a tip or gratuity. If the order is for delivery, the tip must go to the driver. If the order is for a pickup, the gratuity must go to the restaurant. This new law comes on the heels of a legal challenge to Proposition 22, the proposition that continued to classify gig workers as independent contractors while offering some benefits to such workers.
Covid-19 Discrimination Laws
Alabama and West Virginia will require employers to allow religious exemptions to any vaccine mandate. Employees in Alabama must use an exemption form drafted by the legislature. Alabama has a one week waiting period for an employer to terminate an employee if an employer denies an employee’s claimed exception. West Virginia requires a notarized certificate for the exemption to apply
Notably, the Covid-19 laws by Alabama and West Virginia cover the entire state while the federal vaccine mandates only cover federal contractors or businesses with 100+ employees. The EEOC recognizes religious exemptions to Covid-19 laws, but the EEOC permits employers to challenge whether a religious belief is “sincere” and allows the employer to deny the claimed exemption if it creates an undue hardship for the employer.