New Hiring Laws You Should Know in 2021

#Employee #background checks #new hire #hiring #employment verification process
by Caitlin Trent

2020 brought an unprecedented year for the labor market with the COVID-19 pandemic.  Because of the enormity of the challenge, many legislatures were hyper-focused on pandemic relief.  Labor and employment firm, Littler, stated back in November, “Compared to prior years, there are significantly fewer new laws and regulations taking effect the first of the year. This is likely because state legislatures focused on emergency pandemic-related laws while in session. Nonetheless, employers will still face many new obligations in the months ahead.”  Here’s a look at new hiring laws that have impacted employers in 2021.

In this blog post, we’ll tell you about new hiring law trends that may spark changes for employers across the country. 

Changes to Hiring Law You Should Know About

The Colorado Equal Pay for Equal Work Act

Colorado’s Equal Pay for Equal Work Act came into effect in January 2021.  In an effort to address gender pay disparity, which can be the result of opaque salary and wages from employers, Colorado’s new legislation stipulates that “employers that are located anywhere in the country must disclose salary and benefits information in job postings for positions that will be or can be performed in Colorado.”

According to the Pew Research Center, the gender pay gap has not changed in the last 15 years, with women earning 84% of what men make for the same work.  The disparity gets worse when looking specifically at women of color, who on average only make 63% of what white men make. 

Although this can be attributed to many factors, research indicates that one of the primary driving forces is the lack of transparency in wages. Adi Gaskell, an innovation scout and enterprise consultant, highlighted: “An emerging body of research finds that pay secrecy policies—workplace rules, informal or formal, that bar or discourage workers from discussing wages and salaries—disadvantage women in particular.” This research does not even include the wage gap impacts on gender diverse and transgender employees.

Content strategy editor at the Times, Samantha Cooney, explains that only 17% of employers practice pay transparency, despite the fact that the practice can actually benefit employers with higher employee satisfaction rates. It can also contribute to cultivating a more loyal work culture. This legislation is needed and may motivate similar shifts across the country, but employers can proactively prioritize transparent hiring and work environments in advance of legislative changes. 

Employer Resistance vs. Acceptance

However, when employers do not disclose how much they will be paying prospective employees, they resist changes that may benefit everyone involved.  Since Colorado stands alone among the majority of states that do not require pay transparency, a long list of national employers have decided to prohibit Coloradoans from applying to their remote-jobs, rather than posting their potential pay. 

Especially in a tight job market as the pandemic diminishes in the U.S., employers would do well to accept the shift and commit to transparent and equal pay. An attorney in Denver, Emily Hobbs, commented on the shift, saying that instead of transparency avoidance "employers should be prepared to address and explain wage differentials." Offering an explanation for differences in pay can help employers avoid EEOC violations and unethical discrimination, but it can also give them an edge when trying to attract qualified employees. 

More states may enact similar legislation in due time, but if employers decide to make the change independent of legal requirements, they will likely see more applicants and set themselves apart from employers that do not post wages.  

One social media startup, Buffer, made the switch back in 2017. Its public relations manager, Hailley Griffis, said that “job applications to work at Buffer significantly increased after the company made its compensation data public.” It is common sense that employees want to see what they would be paid before going through an entire application process, and transparency demonstrates respect for prospects and employees from the get-go. Even if companies do not know exactly what they will be paying a prospective hire, depending on things like experience, posting a salary range should be common sense and standardized with or without new legislation. 

Georgia’s Second Chance Law 

Georgia is the second most hostile state in the country for people convicted of a crime. The state has 4.2 million people with criminal records, which constitutes over one-third of the state’s population. According to the Georgia Justice Project, those folks with criminal backgrounds have a much higher unemployment rate than the rest of the state (15%) compared to the state average (3.4% pre-pandemic). 

In an effort to correct this situation,  Georgia enacted the Second Chance Law, SB-88, which went into effect in January 2021.  The law gives people with criminal convictions the ability to seal their records for specific non-violent misdemeanor and felony charges following lawful behavior. “We've run into this issue all of the time and it's affecting whole communities. Everyone in Georgia knows someone who was incarcerated and is struggling to find housing or a job," said the executive director of the Georgia Justice Project in response to the bill. 

While laws like these are important for granting people with criminal backgrounds a chance at employment, employers should also be navigating criminal background checks with similar discretion even without a legal standard.  Knowing when to overlook criminal backgrounds can give employers a hiring edge while avoiding reinforcing systemic discrimination, primarily against people of color.  Criminal background checks should be approached with a relational mindset where employers seek to understand the context and person behind the record. In most cases, having legal system history should not be the sole factor preventing employment consideration or hire.  

Companies should let forward-thinking, ethical laws--regardless of their applied jurisdictions--guide company policies. Employers who stay aware of labor laws and ethics and address issues proactively ahead of legislation in their own states can build outstanding workplaces that attract quality teams. Looking at what trends and patterns are occurring will bolster companies’ ability to address inequities head-on and likely draw stronger job recruits in the process.

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