Arkansas Employment Law Update – February 2017

Arkansas

Arkansas Civil Rights Act Amended

On February 17, 2017, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson signed legislation (H.B. 1126) that amends the definition of employer and the hate offense and retaliation provisions of the Arkansas Civil Rights Act of 1993. The act prohibits employment discrimination based on race, religion, national origin (including ancestry), gender (including pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions), or sensory, mental, or physical disability.

Specifically, the bill amends the definition of employer to exclude an agent of an employer. The bill also provides for civil action for injunctive relief or damages due to racial, religious, or ethnic animosity.

The bill goes into effect 91 days after the legislature adjourns (projected August 18, 2017).

Read AR H.B. 1126

Paid Maternity Leave for State Workers

On February 16, 2017, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson signed legislation (S.B. 125) providing paid maternity leave to state workers.

Pursuant to the law, state employees may take up to four weeks of paid maternity leave within the first 12 weeks after the birth or adoption of a child. The program requires the employee to have been employed by the state for more than one year. The law does not require employees to exhaust sick or annual leave prior to being awarded catastrophic leave for maternity purposes.

Under the new law, all agency catastrophic leave banks will be eliminated and replaced with a single leave bank for all agencies that will be administered by the Office of Personnel Management.

The law went into effect upon signing.

Read AR S.B. 125

Drug-Free Workplaces

On February 10, 2017, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson signed legislation (H.B. 1262) that removes the Arkansas Department of Labor from the voluntary drug-free workplaces program administered by the Workers’ Compensation Commission. The bill goes into effect 91 days after the legislature adjourns (Projected August 18, 2017).

Read AR H.B. 1262