Employment law changes and evolves. Best practice for employers is to have an experienced employment attorney review and update their employee handbook to be in compliance with labor laws. At a minimum, the following areas need to be addressed to have an up-to-date employee handbook for Arizona employers.
Proposition 203, Arizona Medical Marijuana Act
In November 2010, Arizona voters approved Proposition 203, which is now known as the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (“the Act”). The Act applies to all employers regardless of how many employees they have or their annual revenue. The Act prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals with medical marijuana cards. When an employee tests positive for marijuana, the employer cannot discriminate against that employee if they provide proof they have a medical marijuana card. An employee cannot, however, be impaired by marijuana while at work. There is also a “safety sensitive” exception that allows an employer to terminate or refuse to hire an employee if the employer believes, in good faith, that the employee’s job duties are such that they affect the safety or health of the employee or others. An experienced employment attorney will discuss which employees may be exempt as “safety sensitive.” Additionally, that attorney can also revise drug and alcohol policies to ensure the employer is complying with the requirements of the Act. Refusing to hire an employee or terminating an existing employee because they have a medical marijuana card can land an employer in serious trouble.
Proposition 206, Arizona’s Paid Sick Time Law
In November 2016, Arizona voters approved Proposition 206, which is now commonly referred to as Arizona’s paid sick time law. The new law requires employers to provide 1 hour of paid time off for every 30 hours worked up to a maximum of 40 hours per year depending on the size of the employer. There are very expensive penalties and/or consequences for non-compliance. Employers need to have a well-written policy in place and need to understand their obligations.
Social Media Policies
Many employers have social media policies that violate the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) because they prohibit the employee from engaging in “concerted activity.” If an employer terminates an employee because he or she violated their social media policy and the National Labor Relations Board determines that the policy violates the NLRA, the Board has the authority to order the employer to pay lost wages and reinstate the employee. The Board also has the power to order that the employer redact and revise any portion of their handbook that violates the NLRA. It is important to have a well-written social media policy in place and to understand the requirements of the NLRA.
A few months ago, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination against employees based on their sexual orientation. This was the first federal Circuit Court to reach this conclusion. Many believe the Seventh Circuit’s decision will eventually be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. Even so, there are city ordinances, including several Arizona cities, that prohibit such discrimination. In addition, the law prohibits discrimination against employees who fail to conform to gender stereotypes (i.e., a gay man acting feminine or a lesbian acting “manly.”). Many anti-discrimination policies don’t take this into account.
These are just some of the provisions that are missing in many Arizona employee handbooks. Additionally, an experienced employment attorney will review the employee handbook to ensure compliance with federal labor laws.