New York State has passed legislation combating salary inequality and race discrimination. Meanwhile, Colorado “bans the box” and codifies wage theft.

New York. The New York State Legislature passed three bills aimed at combating salary inequality and race discrimination. The National Law Review reported the three bills — which Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to sign — will bar employers from inquiring about applicants’ past salary history, prohibit wage differentials based on protected class status, and ban race discrimination based on an employee’s hair or hairstyle.

The measures resemble laws enacted in New York City in recent years. Additional bills were introduced that also mirror recent New York City laws, but they were not taken up for a vote during the 2019 session. These included efforts to “ban the box” to prevent criminal histories from being considered in the job application process and a measure that would bar employers from conducting credit checks of prospective employees. The New York State Legislature will consider them again in next year’s Legislative Session.

Colorado. Out West, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has signed “ban the box” legislation, law firm Jackson Lewis P.C. wrote in JD Supra.

House Bill 19-1025, also referred to as the “Colorado Chance to Compete Act,” prohibits employers from asking about an applicant’s criminal history in an initial job application. The act also prohibits an employer from stating in an employment position advertisement that a person with a criminal history may not apply.

The new law takes effect in September 2019 for employers with at least 11 employees, while employers with fewer than 11 employees have until September 2021 to comply. This makes Colorado the 13th state to enact “ban the box” legislation for private employers.

In May, Gov. Polis also signed a law that reclassifies failure to pay employee wages as theft, according to The National Law Review. An employer faces felony charges if unpaid wages exceed $2,000.

The new law, scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2020, imposes criminal penalties if an employer willfully refuses to pay wages or compensation, or intentionally and falsely denies the amount or validity of a wage claim.

Currently, an employer faces only an unclassified misdemeanor charge if found guilty, plus a fine of $300 for failure to pay wages or $500 for failure to pay the minimum wage. Under the new law, failure to pay employee wages constitutes theft and is either a petty offense, misdemeanor or felony, depending on the amount of the unpaid wages. The employer faces potential felony charges when the amount of unpaid wages exceeds $2,000.

Todd Lebowitz, an attorney who specializes in independent contractor law and partner with Baker & Hostetler LLP, wrote about the law’s implications for companies accused of independent contractor misclassification. “When independent contractors sue and allege they were really employees, one of the most common claims asserted is that, since they were really employees, they were entitled to a minimum wage and overtime pay,” Lebowitz wrote.