Utah Legislature Ends 2023 Session with New HR Laws
The Utah Legislature ended its annual legislative session in early March 2023 by passing several new laws impacting employers and by rejecting several other initiatives that would have regulated the workplace. A more specific discussion of each provision is below. Two highlights from the session include a passed bill that allows employers to seek protective orders against violent workers and an enacted bill that makes immunity status a protected class under the Utah Antidiscrimination Act. Employers should review the immunity status bill carefully and consult with legal counsel about necessary changes to handbooks or policies to include the new protected class.
Workplace Bills that the Legislature Passed
As noted in our last update, the 2023 Utah Legislature passed a Utah Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)-sponsored bill. The bill creates a workplace violence protective order against current or former employees who threaten violence (HB 324).
The legislature also prohibited the use of an individual’s immunity status by places of public accommodation, governmental entities and employers, meaning that such status cannot be used in employment, except when required by the government or when an employer that (i) establishes a nexus between a vaccination requirement and the employee's assigned duties and responsibilities; or (ii) identifies an external requirement for vaccination that is not imposed by the employer and is related to the employee's duties and responsibilities (HB 131).
The legislature also passed a bill stating that a private employer hiring a mental health professional may not exclude an applicant from an interview based on a juvenile adjudication; arrests that occurred before the individual was 18 years old; or an expunged criminal offense. This new law does not apply to private employers who are part of the criminal or juvenile justice system; are seeking nonemployee volunteers; work with children or vulnerable adults; or whose primary purpose is performing financial or fiduciary functions (HB 468).
The legislature also liberalized the rules regarding when and how an employer may allow an employee who is not a tip-earning employee to participate in a bona fide tip pooling or sharing arrangement (SB 73).
Workplace Bills that the Legislature Rejected
The 2023 Utah Legislature rejected bills:
1) providing a process for searching the personal electronic device of a public employee for records that are responsive to a record request (HB 97);
2) voiding non-competes related to certain disability services, i.e. persons who provide support, supervision, and assistance to an individual with a disability in a residential setting, private home, or in the community (HB 178 Sub 1) or regarding health care services (SB 170);
3) prohibiting a public employer from deducting union dues from a public employee's wages, except in certain circumstances (HB 241);
4) requiring a private employer and an employee to enter into a vehicle use agreement in certain circumstances when a company vehicle is used for personal use (HB 445);
5) reducing the amount of time and time of day that a minor under sixteen years old could work while school was in session (HB 540);
6) raising the Utah minimum wage (HB 549)
7) requiring an employee, independent contractor, or volunteer who has direct contact with a child to obtain a background check every 60 months (SB 110).
Although these bills failed in 2023, employers should monitor future legislative sessions as the sponsors of these bills may attempt to reintroduce them in the future.
Diversity Bills Also Fail in Utah Legislature
A series of Utah bills that would have changed/regulated how employers develop, implement, deal with and train about diversity initiatives also failed in the 2023 legislature. They are: HB 428, HB 451 (which passed the House but died in the Senate) and SB 283. Diversity in the workplace is a hot button issue right now, with some in favor and others rejecting it as part of a so-called “woke” agenda. These issues likely will appear again in future legislative sessions.