Some manufacturers may interpret the “Epic Fail” of Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act as a sign of stability in the labor and employment landscape.  After all, one thing which the new Administration and Congressional Republicans had in common was their seven-year pledge to repeal “Obamacare.”  When compared to the divergent views on other controversial measures – minimum wage, overtime regulations, and the overhaul of the tax code – repeal of the ACA looked like “low hanging” fruit.  The failure to pick that plumb suggests reform of federal employment and labor laws will not occur anything soon.

But cities and states appear willing to act in areas where Congress may not be able.  This “patchwork” of local standards threatens to make the task of compliance by manufacturers and others a full-time job.

For example, New Jersey is considering an amendment to the state’s paid leave law to expand the scope of benefits.  Because the state pays covered employees through its insurance system, funded by employee contributions, the adoption of this amendment likely will not impact manufacturers directly.  The same cannot be said for two proposed New Jersey bills (one in the State Assembly and one in the State Senate)  which would make it unlawful to take adverse employment action against employees for their use of medical marijuana

Similarly, Texas adopted a state law prohibiting employers from considering an applicant’s credit history unless that history is substantially related to employment.

States are not the only entities taking action to expand employee protections in the absence of federal legislation.  The City of Los Angeles recently adopted new regulations restricting the use of criminal arrest and conviction records.  The Los Angeles regulations mirror the approach adopted by the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (and possibly could have been adopted in anticipation of a change in federal law).  The City of Seattle adopted the “Secure Schedule” Ordinance – a complex regulation requiring covered employers (retail establishments employing 500 or more employees anywhere and full service restaurants employing 500 or more employees and hosting 40 or more locations anywhere) to provide good faith estimates of work schedules, engage in an “interactive process” when scheduling employees, and offer additional hours to current employees before hiring others.  While less complex and burdensome, the City of San Jose adopted its own “Opportunity to Work” Ordinance.  Covering employers employing 35 or more employees within the city, the Ordinance requires employers to offer additional work hours to current employees before hiring additional persons (including subcontractors, staffing agencies or temporary services agencies).

Manufacturers should be cognizant of proposed legislation at the state and local level.  Manufacturers with operations in multiple jurisdictions need to be especially vigilant as their HR policies could get caught up in a increasing complex web of local regulation.