The 28th Hawaii State Legislature ended on May 5, 2016, with some important victories for small business. The 29th session commences Jan. 18, 2017
Helped Hold back a Proposed Minimum-Wage Increase
Legislators did not advance proposals to increase the state’s minimum wage by $2 per hour over four years. NFIB/Hawaii successfully opposed tying future minimum wage increases to a Consumer Price Index.
Defeated Mandatory Employer-Paid Sick Leave
NFIB/Hawaii helped to defeat the proposed law which would have required both large and small employers to pay for at least 5 days of sick leave per employee and limited an employer’s right to request a doctor’s note when employees’ are out sick.
Defeated the “Successor” Employer Bill
NFIB/Hawaii opposed a bill that would have required the purchaser of a company to hire 100 percent of the seller’s employees. The sale and closure of several high-profile companies in Hawaii’s caused legislators to seek ways to ensure continued employment. NFIB/Hawaii successfully opposed the measure.
Defeated Job-Killing Family Leave Bill
Hawaii legislators proposed an expansive new version of a paid sick leave bill in 2015, but it failed a week before the Hawaii legislature adjourned and won’t be considered again until January 2016. In 2012, a federal court invalidated a similar bill, applicable to businesses with more than 100 employees. Proponents of the new measure wanted to require all food establishments, regardless of size, to provide paid leave for all employees, including those working fewer than 20 hours per week. In one version of the bill, employees would have been entitled to use the leave whether they, or a close family member, were sick, creating a de facto paid family leave plan. Other businesses would “only” have to provide paid leave to employees who work 20 hours per week or more. Earlier in the session, legislators considered but dismissed an employee paid version of sick leave. NFIB and other business groups objected that it constituted a tax on employees and failed to allow employees to opt out of the benefit.
Stopped Attempt to Alter Workers’ Compensation Law
Independent medical exams are the tool used to validate an employee’s fitness to return to work following a workplace injury. Legislators considered altering the process for selecting an independent medical exam physician, which small business advocates – including NFIB – opposed. The bill would have required an independent medical examination to be conducted by a physician selected by the “mutual agreement” of the employee and employer. Small businesses opposed the measure for the potential to delay selection of the physician and to delay the return of fit employees to the workplace. Currently, state law allows employers to select the independent medical exam physicians. General contractors opposed the bill as “unfair but also because it will increase the cost and delay medical treatment when the issue of compensability is contested by the employer.” Other construction industry advocates pointed out that “current statutes have numerous safeguards in place to allow injured employees full disclosure of an employer/insurance carrier’s IME report, the right to seek their own medical opinion if they disagree, and an appeal process if the parties cannot agree.” Business owners testified that a “vocal minority” has made it appear as though the IME process as it exists today is totally one-sided. The bill passed both houses of the Legislature but failed to gain approval of a conference committee scheduled to hammer out details in the bill. It continued to receive legislative hearings up to the last day for bills to be considered. NFIB will oppose this bill in 2016.