Photo: Mark Goebel via Flickr (CC by 2.0)
Photo: Mark Goebel via Flickr (CC by 2.0)

With all of the focus on the uncertainty of federal employment regulations, state legislatures have been hard at work on proposed legislation and have flown a bit under the radar. Now is a good time to take a look at some pending bills in New Hampshire which could impact workplaces.  There are a variety of important issues being discussed.

Immunity for Information Given in Response to Reference Requests

Senate Bill 22 is designed to extend  immunity from civil law suits to employers who in good faith provide information “regarding misconduct, work history, and competency” about a worker upon request of a current or prospective employer.  The legislature last year passed RSA 151:16-c which gives this protection to employers in the health care industry.  If passed, this bill will extend the immunity to all employers, thus allowing them to provide honest and complete answers to employee reference requests without fear of liability.  In recent years, most employers, out of concern about being sued, have adopted policies limiting reference request responses to job titles and dates of employment, information which is of limited value to a company trying to make a hiring decision.

Right to Work

HB 520 and SB 11 are the House and Senate versions of right to work legislation.  The Senate passed SB 11 ( on a 12-11 vote). This legislation would allow employees the choice whether or not to join a union or to pay dues to a union their workplace. The House bill was soundly defeated, and the House also took the unusual step of voting to close discussion on the topic, effectively killing Right to Work for this year  Had one of the bills passed, the governor signaled his intent to sign the legislation into law.  This would have made New Hampshire the first Right to Work state in the northeast.

Gender Identity

HB 478 would add gender identity as a protected class under the state’s anti-discrimination law, RSA 354-A.  The New Hampshire Commission for Human Rights and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have generally found ways to address discrimination on the basis of gender identity through either Title VII on the basis of gender discrimination or the provision in state law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.  There is generally wide support in the business community for this legislation, and more than eighty people showed up to testify at the committee hearing on February 21.

Paid Family Leave Insurance

HB 628 would establish a paid family leave insurance program funded by deduction of .05% of employees’ wages from their pay.  Employers would not contribute to the cost of the insurance, but would administer the program internally.  New Hampshire Employment Security would collect the funds on behalf of the state and would make the payments to qualified employees.  Employees would be paid a percentage of their average weekly wages for a maximum of twelve (12) weeks of leave for certain designated purposes which include childbirth, care of a seriously ill family member or one’s own serious illness.  The program is intended to dovetail with federal law and to fill the gap for employees whose employers do not offer paid leave benefits.   The House retained the bill for further study due to questions surrounding the impact of making employee participation voluntary.

Things at the state house are very busy, and both houses are moving through their dockets quickly from committee hearings to full chamber votes.  All interested employers should take the time to voice their thoughts on these bills to their legislators or to the members of the committees which are handing the various bills.

McLane Middleton’s employment attorneys are also ready to discuss the impact of such legislation on business with clients and friends.