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Employee Experience

What Are Employee-Friendly States?

One Minute Takeaway

  • Workplace laws vary in every state, some are friendlier to employees, others favor employers
  • Understanding state laws is helpful to ensure competitive offerings
  • Minimum wage policies, right to organize and worker protection factor into best states to work in scores

As an HR leader, knowing state laws for employee rights is critical but as you begin to hire more remote workers from a broader array of states and territories, it will become necessary to understand employment laws across the country, particularly rules that are unusual or differ greatly from your home state.

For instance, the minimum wage in the District of Columbia is nearly double what it is in Virginia, just a few miles away (although this is set to change with new legislation). In Oregon, women who are nursing are entitled to pump at work. In New York state, employers must give employees their schedule two weeks in advance. All of these laws factor into how friendly an environment is to a worker. And, with a greater understanding of the how employee-friendliness is measured, you can ensure your workplace is meeting and exceeding expectations.

What does it mean to be employee friendly?

You might imply that employee friendly is relative but, actually, HR legal experts and international watchdog groups regularly analyze data and track specific metrics to rate states on employee friendliness. A quick search will yield results based on everything from the number of opportunities per person to job satisfaction to economic environment. Oxfam is just one international organization that produces a yearly Best States to Work report based on the characteristics below.

  • Wage policies – To measure wage policies, researchers examined the ratio of state minimum wage in relation to the cost of living for a family of four with one earner (as determined by an MIT calculator). Oxfam also examines whether or not the state allows individual cities, towns or counties to implement their own minimum wage.

  • Worker protection policies – Oxfam tracks paid sick and paid family leave, access to flexible scheduling, fair hiring practices, protection from sexual harassment and protections for various situations a worker may face, including pregnant or nursing mothers. In addition, this organization measures whether these protections are extended to farm workers and domestic workers, which are two groups that are excluded from federal laws. The pandemic has recently spurred new protections for workers, with New York State recently enacting the “Airborne Disease Workplace Safety Standard,” which requires all New York employers to implement permanent protections against airborne infectious diseases in the workplace
  • Right to organize policies -This includes “Right to Work” laws, public employees (namely teachers’) right to organize, laws that protect labor agreements with state governments, and mandates for protection against retaliation. Oxfam also tracks policies on collective bargaining with public workers.

How states rank

After looking at the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, Oxfam ranked California and the District of Columbia highest across all categories in its most recent survey, while North Carolina was rated as the worst place to work based on policies and laws.

Top 10 employee-friendly states

  1. California – It ranks high because of its high minimum wage ($14/hr.) and worker protections. As noted above, these include laws for paid sick leave, family leave and other protections.
  2. District of Columbia – Similar to California, it ranks high because of a high minimum wage ($15.20/hr) and provides workers with the right to organize.
  3. New York – It ranks high because of minimum wage ($12.50), considerable worker protection and right to organize.
  4. Washington – According to the study, the state minimum wage in Washington is a living wage, with good worker protections and right to organize laws.
  5. Oregon – While wage policies aren’t the best on the list, Oregon ranks high for worker protection and right to organize laws.
  6. Massachusetts – A considerable score is given for worker protection and right to organize laws.
  7. New Jersey – It ranks low for wage policies but high for worker protection and right to organize.
  8. Connecticut – It ranks low for wage policies but high for worker protection and right to organize.
  9. Puerto Rico – It ranks very high for right to organize laws but is low on the list for minimum wage which is $7.25.
  10. Illinois – Illinois lacks in meeting a living minimum wage and worker protection, but does have the right to organize.

California ranked first on worker protection policies, while Mississippi ranked last. Oxfam researchers gave states a point for each employee protection law currently enacted.

D.C and California have high minimum wages, allow workers to organize and earned high scores on worker protection measures. Generally speaking, states along the East and West coasts have laws that tend to be more favorable to workers, while many states, including many in the South, have enacted laws that favor employers.

When looking only at wage policies, individual states received one point if its minimum wage met or exceeded the median minimum wage of $8.25. Researchers note that boosts in minimum hourly wage can have a significant impact on annual income. Washington state topped this ranking, with a $13.50 minimum wage that is 49.1 percent of the state’s cost of living. Georgia scored last in this metric, with a $7.25 minimum wage, which is slightly more than 25 percent of the Georgia cost of living.

How Paycor Helps

Understanding what employee-friendly states offer workers is not only useful when benchmarking your company’s overall compensation strategy to ensure you’re competitive, but it is also your legal responsibility as an HR leader. Remaining compliant when it comes to laws in various states can be an overwhelming task, especially if you are managing it manually. Fortunately, Paycor’s HR tools can help. A unified platform provides efficiencies, reduces errors and allows you to review and learn from workforce analytics