As HR managers begin the new year by updating their policy manuals, the Society for Human Resource Management has thoughtfully provided a list of new state laws that took effect on Jan. 1.

California legislators were the most active from an HR manual standpoint, so let’s start there. Its new laws include:

  • Legislation clarifying that for sexual harassment to be proved, the sexually harassing conduct doesn’t need to be motivated by sexual desire.
  • An employer can’t ask candidates to disclose information about convictions that have been judicially dismissed or ordered sealed unless the employer is required by law to obtain that information.
  • New language in an existing law added “military and veteran status” to the list of categories protected from employment discrimination.
  • Expansion of the scope of its family temporary disability program to include time off to care for a seriously ill grandparent, grandchild, sibling or parent-in-law.
  • Companies are now prohibited from taking adverse employment action against victims of stalking or from discharging workers — or discriminating or retaliating against them — because of their status as a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.
  • California businesses must now allow employees who serve as volunteer firefighters, reserve peace officers or rescue personnel to take leave to perform emergency duties or to attend emergency rescue training.

Oregon’s new or amended legislation:

  • One requires certain private employers to provide bereavement leave to eligible employees under the Oregon Family Leave Act.
  • Another allows eligible workers to take family leave after the death of a family member.
  • A third now restricts employers’ access to workers’ personal social media accounts by prohibiting any employer from:
  1. asking employees or job applicants to divulge personal social media account passwords or user names
  2. insisting that an employee or applicant add the employer to the individual's social media contact list
  3. viewing the employee's or applicant's personal social media account

Texas added language that prohibits restaurants, retail food stores and other food establishments and vendors from banning an assistance animal from areas open to other customers, as long as those areas aren’t used to prepare food.

New Jersey has a new law that restricts employers’ access to workers’ personal social media accounts.

Minnesota now limits how much a company can rely on criminal history for employment purposes.

Rhode Island now prohibits employers from asking — verbally or in writing — prior to the first live interview with an applicant, any questions about an applicant’s criminal convictions. The usual exceptions apply (financial institutions, etc.).

Illinois employers can no longer discriminate against workers whose doctors have given them registry identification cards allowing them to legally possess small amounts of medical marijuana.

Nevada clarified its medical marijuana law so that companies don’t have to allow medical use of marijuana in the workplace but they do have to make reasonable accommodations for those who have a registry identification card allowing them to use marijuana for medical purposes.