Did You Keep Your New Year’s Resolution? New Regulations and Laws in 2018

With the beginning of each calendar year often comes a host of new laws and regulations.  And 2018 is no different.  Highlighted below are a couple of new laws/regulations in the areas of drug testing, paid sick and safe leave, minimum wage, and medical marijuana that may affect your workplace and require revisions to your employee handbook:

DOT Drug Testing:

The DOT Agencies & United States Coast Guard (“USCG”) recently issued guidance to DOT-regulated employers concerning the content of their DOT policies and what they need to contain about the changes to 49 CFR Part 40, which are effective January 1, 2018.  The following is from the recently published notice:

“There is no need for employers to make any changes if their current DOT policies refer to adhering to “… Part 40.”  However, there are exceptions when an employer’s DOT policy lists the following optional information:

  • If sub-categories of drugs tested under the 5-panel are listed – for example, if a policy lists “Opiates (codeine, heroin, & morphine)” and/or “Amphetamines (amphetamine, methamphetamine, MDMA, MDA, MDEA), then “Opiates“ needs to change to “Opioids (codeine, heroin, morphine, oxycodone, oxymorphone, hydrocodone, hydromorphone)” and “MDEA” will need to be removed from the list under Amphetamines.  If however, employers would like to delete the sub-categories of drugs, doing so will also be acceptable.
  • Likewise, if cut-off levels are listed in current policies, employers must update those cut-off levels. Again, employers may simply delete the cut-off levels completely and be in compliance if the DOT policy refers to adhering to “… Part 40.”
  • While these DOT Agencies and USCG suggest that employers provide written notice to employees about their updated DOT policies, doing so is an employer’s prerogative.”

Employers should review their current DOT policies for compliance with the new regulations at the earliest opportunity.

Paid Sick and Safe Leave (Private Employers):

The States of Washington and Maryland recently passed paid sick and safe leave laws applicable to private employers.  The Washington state law is effective January 1, 2018 and the Maryland law is effective February 11, 2018.  Rhode Island also recently passed a paid sick and safe leave law which will become effective July 1, 2018.  These states join Arizona, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington D.C., in addition to a host of cities and counties across the country with paid sick and safe leave requirements.  Employers in these jurisdictions should carefully review their existing sick leave and paid time off policies for compliance.

Minimum Wage:

Eighteen states raised their minimum wage in 2018:  Alaska, Washington, Montana, Minnesota, South Dakota, Colorado, California, Arizona, Hawaii, Ohio, Florida, New Jersey, New York, Vermont, Maine, and Rhode Island.

Marijuana (Medical and Recreational Usage):

Thirty states and the District of Columbia currently have laws legalizing some variation of recreational or medical marijuana use.  This tally includes Texas which recently passed the Texas Compassionate Use Act, effective September 1, 2017, and authorizes medical marijuana in very limited medical situations.  Eight states (Washington, Oregon, Nevada, California, Colorado, Alaska, Maine and Massachusetts) and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational use.  Employers should become familiar with the marijuana usage laws in the states in which they operate and keep up with ongoing developments as these laws make their way through the court systems.  In particular, employers should pay careful attention to whether they are required to reasonably accommodate an employee’s marijuana usage under the Americans with Disabilities Act or similar state laws. At least one state Supreme Court – Massachusetts – has addressed the issue and found that Massachusetts employers may have a duty to reasonably accommodate under state law.