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Legislative Update: Employment-Related Bills in the 2019 Utah Legislature

2019 Utah Employment Bills

Below is a brief overview of some of the employment-related bills currently working their way through the 2019 General Session of the Utah Legislature. If you have any questions, concerns, or suggestions on any of these bills, I encourage you to contact your legislators.  You can find information about who represents you at this link.

NOTE: The following overview is current as of the time of this post, but things can, and often do, change rapidly.

House Bills

  • H.B. 160, WORKERS’ COMPENSATION COVERAGE AMENDMENTS. Chief Sponsor: Rex P. Shipp.  Current status: House Business and Labor Committee.  Key points:
    • provides that a partnership or a sole proprietorship is not required to provide workers’ compensation coverage for a minor employee who is a child of a partner of the partnership or an owner of the sole proprietorship.
  • H.B. 173, EMERGENCY SERVICES VOLUNTEER EMPLOYMENT PROTECTION ACT. Chief Sponsor: Rep. Casey Snider.  Current status: Passed by the House, on third reading calendar of the Senate.  Key Points:
    • prohibits an employer from terminating an employee for being an emergency services volunteer;
    • permits an employer to request written verification that an employee missed work to respond to an emergency as an emergency services volunteer; and
    • creates a civil cause of action for violation of the statute.
  • H.B. 199, POST-EMPLOYMENT RESTRICTIONS AMENDMENTS. Chief Sponsor: Rep. Mike Schultz.  Senate Sponsor: Sen. Daniel Hemmert.  Current status: Passed by the House, on third reading calendar of the Senate.  Key points:
    • Replaces requirement that, to be valid, a post-employment restrictive covenant for a broadcasting employee must be (among other things) in a written employment contract of no more than four years with a requirement that such a covenant be in a written employment contact “of reasonable duration, based on industry standards the position, the broadcasting employee’s experience, geography, and the parties’ unique circumstances.”
  • H.B. 204, 1st Sub., EMPLOYMENT SELECTION PROCEDURES ACT AMENDMENTS. Chief Sponsor: Rep. Mark A. Wheatley.  Current status: House Economic Development and Workforce Services Committee.  Key Points:
    • prohibits an employer from seeking information regarding an applicant’s compensation history;
    • gives the Labor Commission’s Division of Antidiscrimination and Labor enforcement power;
    • permits an aggrieved individual to file a request for agency action;
    • provides for penalties of $1,000 for a first violation and $5,000 for a second violation;
    • permits either party to appeal an order made under the Employment Selection Procedures Act; and
    • provides for the Labor Commission to obtain representation on any appeal or to enforce any judgment of an order made under the statute.
  • H.B. 212, 1st Sub., EXPUNGEMENT CHANGES. Chief Sponsor: Rep. Stewart E. Barlow.  Senate Sponsor: Sen. Jani Iwamoto.  Current status: Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement, and Criminal Justice Committee.  Key Points:
    • prohibits public employer inquiry into an applicant’s expunged criminal history, except in certain circumstances; and
    • permits an applicant for a private employer position to answer a question related to an expunged criminal record as though the action underlying the expunged criminal record never occurred, except in certain circumstances.
  • H.B. 390, WORKPLACE PROTECTION AMENDMENTS. Chief Sponsor, Rep. Erik K. Hutchings.  Current status: House Rules Committee.  Key points:
    • amends the Utah Antidiscrimination Act (UADA) as follows:
      • changes the definition of “employer” to an employer of 1 or more employees (rather than 15 or more employees, as currently the case);
      • permits claims involving employers of less than 15 employees to proceed to an evidentiary hearing without a division investigation;
      • provides additional remedies for claims against employers of less than 15 employees (reinstatement or front pay for up to two years, plus back pay and benefits, attorney fees, costs, and general damages up to $25,000)
      • removes the UADA’s exclusive remedy provision; and
      • permits certain people to commence an action for civil enforcement of a final order under the UADA.

Potential questions raised by H.B. 390:

    • Because of the removal of the exclusive remedy provision and the lack of any requirement that an applicant or employee exhaust administrative remedies before filing a lawsuit, may an applicant or employee skip the administrative process entirely and proceed directly to court?
    • Why do the remedies against employers of less than 15 persons exceed those available against larger employers?
    • By removing the exclusive remedy provision, would the bill overrule Utah Supreme Court rulings that employees may not sue for wrongful discharge in violation of public policy based on a violation of the UADA?
    • If so, would the $25,000 cap on general damages on claims against employers of less than 15 persons still apply?
    • If passed, would the bill result in an increased caseload for Utah state trial courts due to persons skipping the administrative process and for appellate courts as a result of various questions posed by the bill?

Senate Bills

  • S.B. 76, WORKERS’ COMPENSATION ADJUDICATION AMENDMENTS. Chief Sponsor: Sen. Karen Mayne.  House Sponsor: Rep. James A. Dunnigan.  Current status:  Passed.  Key Points:
    • repeals provisions authorizing the Labor Commission to award attorney fees;
    • in certain workers’ compensation cases, authorizes the Labor Commission to award an add-on fee to a claimant to be paid by the workers’ compensation insurance carrier; and
    • if the Labor Commission awards an add-on fee, establishes the amount of the add-on fee.
  • S.B. 210, FAMILY MEDICAL UNPAID LEAVE PROVISIONS. Chief Sponsor: Sen. Daniel Hemmert.  House Sponsor: Rep. Mike Schultz.  Current status: Senate 2nd Reading Calendar, circled on 2/15/19.  Key points:
    • provides that a “state-eligible employer” (an employer of 30 to 49 employees) is subject to certain provisions of the Family and Medical Leave Act, except that unpaid leave time is limited to three workweeks of unpaid leave in any 12-month period; and
    • provides eligible employees with a right of action to recover damages or equitable relief for a violation of the proposed statute.
  • S.B. 212, SEPARATION FROM PAYROLL AMENDMENTS. Chief Sponsor: Sen. Karen Mayne.  House Sponsor: Rep. Gage Froerer.  Current status: passed, signed by governor.  Key points:
    • provides that the post-termination wage payment time requirements of the statute do not apply to “the commission-based portion” of a sales agent’s earnings if the net amount due the agent is determined only after an audit or verification of sales, accounts, funds, or stocks.
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About Mark Wagner

Mark A. Wagner concentrates his practice in employment law, homeowners association law, and health care law, and serves as Chair of the firm’s Employment and Labor Practice Group.
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