The United States is way behind most other western nations in protecting its workers. While Congress has dropped into paralysis, U.S. cities have stepped in where Congress and the states have failed to protect working Americans. Florida is one of the most anti-employee states in the nation. The cities here could do much to help working people if they had the political will.
Here are some examples of how cities are stepping up to help workers:
Intern sexual harassment: New York City, along with Washington, D.C., Delaware, and Oregon, have laws against sexually harassing unpaid interns. There is not a single federal law banning intern sexual harassment. Title VII doesn’t cover it because they aren’t “employees.” Same with most state laws including Florida. So, yay for sexual harassers. High school and college students are fair game.
Paid sick leave: San Francisco, Oakland, Emeryville, Los Angeles, Berkeley and San Diego; Washington, D.C.; New York City; Seattle, Tacoma and Spokane; Philadelphia; Montgomery County (Md.); Chicago and Cook County; St. Paul, Minneapolis and Duluth); Newark, Jersey City, Irvington, Passaic, East Orange, Paterson, Trenton, Montclair, Bloomfield, New Brunswick, Elizabeth, Plainfield and Morristown; and Austin all have some form of paid sick leave. Eleven states including California provide some form of paid sick leave. Not Florida, of course.
Paid safe days: The cities that provide paid "safe" days, giving time for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking to seek services include: San Francisco, Emeryville, San Diego, Los Angeles, Berkeley and Santa Monica; Washington, D.C.; Seattle, Tacoma and Spokane; Philadelphia; Montgomery County (Md.); Chicago and Cook County; Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth; New Brunswick; and Austin.
Salary history: 13 states and 11 cities have banned employers from asking about salary history. The reason behind the legislation is that basing pay on prior salary can lock in pay discrimination. The sponsor of the Philadelphia ordinance explained: “Simply put, when a woman is paid less at the beginning of her career she will continue to earn less throughout her career. By eliminating the question of salary history we will be one step closer to decreasing the wage gap.”
Ban the box: 33 states and over 150 cities and counties have adopted “ban the box” laws. These laws generally prevent employers from asking about applicant arrests or convictions at the beginning of the application process, and only allow inquiries after the applicant passes their initial screening. Why? Because about 70 million Americans have some criminal record, and the majority of them are minorities. An entire class of citizens has been made almost completely unemployable due to criminal records that have nothing to do with their ability to do jobs.
Predictable schedules: San Francisco, Emeryville, San Jose, Chicago, New York, Seattle and Washington, D.C. have ordinances requiring that employers give specified advance notice of work schedules, advance notice of shift cancellations, and/or predictability pay for last minute cancellations. Oregon is the first state to enact such a law.
Paid family leave: 35 cities/counties and 11 states have paid parental leave laws.
Right to vacation: New York City would require most employers to offer 10 days of paid vacation to employees under this proposed ordinance
Firing for just cause: This proposed law would prevent employers in New York from firing on a whim.
Minimum wage: Florida’s legislature has prohibited local ordinances raising minimum wage, and that was just upheld. Sad. Many other cities around the nation have raised minimum wage for their workers.
Some cities that have led the way on employee rights are San Francisco, New York, A list of San Francisco’s very pro-employee ordinances is here. New York’s employee rights page is here.
So talk to your local elected officials about stepping up to help working people. If the state and federal governments won’t help workers, it will be up to the cities to protect them.