Decision 2018: What Ballot Measures Will Impact HR?

This November, voters across the country will weigh in on 154 ballot measures covering everything from renewable energy to election policies. While not all of these measures will impact HR, some could mean big changes for the industry. Minimum wage increases, marijuana legalization, and transgender rights are three issues that could affect office life and your company policies. Here are the three major 2018 ballot issues that could affect the workplace.

Minimum Wage

Arkansas and Missouri workers might see an increase in their pay. State residents will vote on whether to incrementally raise the minimum wage in their respective states. Arkansas has proposed to raise the minimum wage from $8.50 to $11 by 2021, while Missouri is considering a similar increase from $7.85 to $12 by 2023.

What does a minimum wage increase mean for HR?

If the measures are approved, Arkansas and Missouri businesses will need to keep an eye on annual wage increases to ensure employee pay meets state requirements. Employers who fail to comply with the wage increases will face financial penalties. Missouri’s proposal is preemptive and would supersede any local or city laws, but Arkansas employers would also have to comply with any local legislation that mandates a higher minimum wage rate.

Transgender Rights

Massachusetts will vote on whether to uphold or overturn its gender identity anti-discrimination law, which prohibits discrimination in public places based on someone’s gender identity. The law has been in effect since October 2016 and allows transgender individuals to use public places, like restrooms, that align with their gender identity rather than their sex.

What do transgender rights mean for HR?

If the law is upheld, companies like hotels and restaurants will have to continue to allow transgender employees and visitors to use whatever restroom aligns with their gender identity. While the law only applies to public places, private businesses can also choose to embrace the inclusivity. All-gender restrooms are another great way to help transgender employees and guests feel welcome and comfortable in your office.

Cannabis Legalization

Missouri and Utah are voting on whether to legalize medical marijuana, following in the footsteps of Oklahoma which approved a similar measure in June. Currently, 31 states and Washington, D.C. allow the use of medical marijuana. Michigan will also vote on whether to legalize recreational marijuana, potentially becoming the ninth state to do so.  

What does marijuana legalization mean for HR?

As more states move to accept medical marijuana use, workplaces may need to take employee health conditions into account when administering drug tests and background checks. While medical marijuana use isn’t currently protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a number of courts have ruled in favor of protecting employees from being fired for off-duty cannabis use.

Barbuto v. Advantage Sales and Marketing, LLC, a disability discrimination case in Massachusetts, the court found that an employee had been wrongfully terminated after testing positive for lawful cannabis use outside of work. Similarly, the recently proposed Fairness in Federal Drug Testing Under State Laws Act would protect federal employees using legal marijuana in accordance with state laws. As medical marijuana acceptance spreads throughout the country, employers should stay up-to-date with legal developments and consider changing company policies to accommodate disabled workers using lawfully recommended medical marijuana.


The HR compliance landscape is constantly evolving, and each election can bring major changes to the workplace. Keeping pace with one state’s labor regulations is hard enough, but what about when other locations are thrown into the mix? Read our
Ultimate Guide to Multi-state Employment and learn how to stay ahead of compliance headaches when you have employees across the country.

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