Protecting Employees Against Discrimination, Wage Violations

Minnesota, New York, and Maine are further protecting employees by enacting legislation targeting workplace discrimination and wage violations.

New York City Commission on Human Rights published legal enforcement guidance regarding race discrimination on the basis of hair, that stated that employers cannot discriminate against black employees by prohibiting, twists, locs, braids, cornrows, Afros, Bantu knots, or fades which are common hairstyles within the Black Community. Thus, on July 12, 2019 bill A.7797A/S.6209A was passed and it became law making discrimination based on natural hairstyles illegal in the entire state of New York.

The State of Minnesota is protecting employees by holding employers criminally liable for wage violations. As of August 1st, 2019, employers will be guilty of a felony if they wrongfully withhold an employee’s pay by virtue of underpayment, misclassification, or refusing to pay an employee for mandatory breaks or overtime. The Department of Labor and Attorney General have doubled the number of state investigators in order to enforce this law. In addition, the Department can issue citations carrying civil penalties to employers that failed to pay an employee wages, up to $1,000. If an employer receives a citation, the employer is required to pay the employee the wages to which they are entitled, in addition to certain damages, within 15 days. Employers now have more to lose if they intend to violate the states wage and hours laws.

Lastly, Maine has passed a law that was effective since September of 2019, which created new protections for pregnant and nursing mothers that are employed. The law requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnancy-related conditions and also provides examples of reasonable accommodations, such as, “more frequent or longer breaks; temporary modification in work schedules, seating or equipment; temporary relief from lifting requirements; temporary transfer to less strenuous or hazardous work; and provisions for lactation.” This law had given working mothers relief from some of the hardships they face when on maternity leave.

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