Firm Monitors Bills That Could Impact Employers

Friday, Eldredge & Clark’s Labor and Employment practice group is monitoring several bills throughout the 91st General Assembly of the Arkansas State Legislature that could impact Arkansas employers if passed. Attorney H. Wayne Young provides a brief overview of these bills.

House Bill 1126

This bill amends the Arkansas Civil Rights Act provisions with respect to the remedies available for retaliation for employment-related claims. Per a previous Arkansas Supreme Court decision, individual supervisors and employees could be liable for employment based claims of retaliation in violation of the Arkansas Civil Rights Act. This stands in contrast to comparable federal law, which provides only the actual employer is liable for such violations. This bill aligns the retaliation provisions of the Arkansas Civil Rights Act with the other employment provisions of the Act as well as federal law. We anticipate there to be an alternate version of this bill filed later as well.

Senate Bills 37 and 33

These two bills relate to an employer’s right to prohibit employee firearm possession on their premises, specifically the parking lot. Senate Bill 37 states that “a private employer shall not prohibit an employee who is a licensee from possessing a legally owned handgun in the person's private motor vehicle when the handgun is locked inside the private motor vehicle in the private employer's parking lot.” This bill also provides that if the employee has to use his own vehicle for work purposes to transport other people, the employer cannot prohibit the employee’s possession of the firearm so long as it is in a locked box and out of sight. Senate Bill 33 is very similar to the restrictions on an employer’s right to limit firearm possession. Senate Bill 33 adds an extensive remedy provision for anyone harmed due to an employer’s violation of the employee’s right as well as employment-based remedies for an employee who was discharged based on a rule or policy that violated the Act. 

House Bill 1021

This bill amends Arkansas’ version of the Equal Pay Act to alter the defenses available to an employer. The change shifts the burden of proof in some cases to the employer to prove why there is a difference in compensation and limits the reasons why an employer can have a difference in compensation. The bill adds to the length of time employers are required to keep records, from three years to five years. The bill adds a new section to code providing a new obligation on Arkansas employers that they are prohibited from restricting any employee from discussing their own compensation, discussing the compensation of others, and inquiring about the compensation paid to other employees. This right resembles the rights of employees under the National Labor Relations Act to engage in concerted protected activity, but this bill is not limited to “employees” as defined and covered in the federal law. This bill, therefore, provides a new obligation on employers than is more expansive that available under federal law.

All of these bills are still in committee and have not yet been considered by their respective committees. 

We are also working with business groups and other firms to draft legislation that relates to the payment of wages upon discharge, unemployment benefits, and the employment provisions of the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment. 

H. Wayne Young is a partner with the firm and a member of the Labor and Employment Law Practice Group. He has been named in the Best Lawyers in America publication annually since 2015, and has been listed as a Rising Star in the Mid-South by Super Lawyers magazine annually since 2013. He is the human resources community liaison for the Board of Directors of Women and Children First and he is the Vice President of the Little Rock Downtown Kiwanis Club. Wayne currently serves as General Counsel to the Arkansas State Council of the Society of Human Resource Management.