New York Employers Must Be Prepared for Big Workplace Changes

New York Employers Must Be Prepared for Big Workplace Changes

Higher minimum wages and paid family leave are among new requirements

By Christopher A. D’Angelo January 12, 2018

New York employees have returned to work in 2018 with the benefit of several new laws enhancing their workplace rights. From an increase in the minimum wage to a ban on salary history inquiries, the laws cover a range of topics.

Here is an overview of the new workplace requirements with some helpful takeaways for employers statewide.

Wage and Hour Changes

It has become something of a tradition in New York to ring in the new year with significant increases to the minimum wage and to the salary threshold for the white-collar exemptions from overtime pay. The practice continues in 2018.

The minimum hourly wage increased across the state as follows:

  • $12, up from $10.50 (for businesses with 10 employees or less), or $13, up from $11 (for businesses with 11 or more employees), in New York City.
  • $11, up from $10, in Long Island and Westchester County.
  • $10.40, up from $9.70, in all other areas of the Empire State.

The minimum weekly salary to qualify for the white-collar exemptions to New York's overtime laws will now be:

  • $900, up from $787.50 (for businesses with 10 employees or less), or $975, up from $825 (for businesses with 11 or more employees), in the Big Apple.
  • $825, up from $750, in Long Island and Westchester County.
  • $780, up from $727.50, in the remaining counties.

The importance of complying with these laws cannot be overstated. Wage and hour litigation stemming from the failure to pay the required minimum wage or overtime remains prevalent.

Paid-Family-Leave Law

All New York employers are now required to provide employees with up to eight weeks of job-protected paid leave per year. The amount of paid leave will increase to 12 weeks per year by 2021.

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Managing Family and Medical Leave]

Employees who regularly work 20 hours or more each week are eligible for this benefit after completing 26 weeks of employment. Those with a regular work schedule of less than 20 hours per week qualify after completing 175 days on the job.

Eligible employees will receive half of the average weekly wage they earned during their most recent eight weeks of employment or the state average weekly wage—whichever is less.

Qualifying employees may take paid leave to:

  • Bond with a new child.
  • Provide physical care for a serious health condition of a child, spouse, domestic partner, parent, grandchild or grandparent.
  • Address urgent needs when a spouse, child or parent is called to active military service.

Employers should note that this leave is not permitted for an employee's own illness. The paid-leave law is funded through small deductions from workers' pay, which are placed into an insurance fund earmarked for this benefit.

These wage deductions could have started as early as July 1, 2017, and employers that have not yet made these deductions would be wise to do so immediately.

New York City Salary Question Ban

The Big Apple has joined a growing number of states and municipalities that prohibit questions about a job applicant's compensation history—including salary, hourly wages, commissions and benefits—as part of the interview and employment screening process.

The salary history inquiry ban—which became effective this past Halloween—is intended to reduce pay gaps that currently exist based on gender and race.

The new law forbids all pre-employment inquiries regarding an applicant's current or prior salary, but it permits an employer to ask about a prospect's compensation expectations.

Significantly, an employer does not violate the law if an applicant volunteers his or her salary information without any prompting.

The law applies to any job located in New York City, even if interviews take place elsewhere. It affects not just interviews, but also written job applications. Search firms and recruiters are also bound by its terms.

Still, employers are permitted to ask about deferred compensation that an applicant may forfeit.

The ban does not apply to current employees who are seeking an internal promotion or transfer. Furthermore, the law allows a company that is acquiring another business to obtain salary information about the employees of the target business during the due diligence process unless employees of the target business are required to interview for a position with the acquiring company.

New York City Fair Workweek Act

Thanksgiving weekend in New York City brought with it a new set of rules aimed at retail stores and fast-food establishments. Known as the Fair Workweek Act, this set of rules prohibits retail stores from cancelling workers' shifts—or requiring them to come into work—with less than 72 hours of notice.

Fast-food restaurants are prohibited from requiring employees to work "clopenings"—back-to-back shifts at the close of one business day and the start of another—with less than an 11 hour break in between. There is an exception if the employee consents to work the back-to-back shifts, but the worker must be paid extra.

New York City Freelance Isn’t Free Act

This law has been on the books since May 15, 2017, but has garnered far less attention than others recently enacted by the New York City Council. It establishes protections for the city's freelance workers by requiring a written agreement that specifies certain terms about the work to be performed if services to be rendered exceed $800 in value within a 120-day period. If the agreement is silent as to the timing of payment, freelancers must be paid within 30 days of completing their work.

Christopher A. D'Angelo is an attorney with Michelman & Robinson in New York City.


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