As we celebrate the close of 2019, we hope the following legal forecast will help you prepare for a prosperous 2020:
Wage and Hour Law:
As of December 31, 2019, the minimum wages across the state are set to increase for the majority of workers. The following is a breakdown of the various
wage increases going into the new year:
NYC Employers with 11 or more employees: $15.00/hour
NYC Employers with 10 or fewer employees: $15.00/hour
Westchester and LI employers:
Everywhere else in New York State:
NYC Fast Food Establishments that are part
of a chain and have 30 or more employees: $15.00/hour
Across the rest of the state:
As a reminder, employers do not have to pay overtime rates to employees who perform certain duties and who are paid a minimum amount on a salary basis.
While the duties have not changed, the minimum amounts employees must be paid have increased as follows:
Westchester and LI Employees:
Rest of New York State:
-Please note employers may pay exempt employees every two weeks or bi-monthly, but the amounts paid must be at least those listed above.
The salary threshold for overtime exemption will also increase on the federal level as of January 1, 2020 to $35,568/year ($684.00/week), however New
York employers must meet the higher thresholds set by the state.
Sexual Harassment and Discrimination In The Workplace:
With the advent of the #metoo movement, New York passed a slew of changes to the New York State Human Rights Law (“NYSHRL”) in August 2019 to increase
and expand protections against various forms of discrimination in the workplace, bringing state law more in line with the New York City Human Rights
Law. While many of the changes already went into effect last year, such as expanding anti-harassment laws to independent contractors and other non-employees,
lowering the “severer pervasive” and other standards for harassment claims, restricting the inclusion of confidentiality provisions in settlement agreements,
mandating sexual harassment training and policies, and allowing for the award of punitive damages and attorney’s fees, other important changes go into
effect this year, including:
-As of February 8, 2020, the NYSHRL will apply to employers of all sizes. Previously it only applied to employers with four or more employees.
-As of January 1, 2020, any agreement between an employee and employer that seeks to restrict an employee’s ability to discuss future claims of discrimination
but fails to advise the employee they are not restricted from speaking with the EEOC, New York State Division of Human Rights, other administrative
agencies, law enforcement, or an attorney, is void as a mater of law.
-As of August 12, 2020, the statute of limitations for filing a charge of discrimination with the New York State Division of Human Rights will be increased
from one to three years.
Paid Family Leave:
Benefits under the New York State Paid Family Leave Law will continue to expand in 2020. Under the Paid Family Leave Law, employees may take paid leave
to care for a family member with a serious health condition, to bond with a child during the first year of a child’s birth, adoption, or foster care
placement, or mange certain situations arising out of a family member’s active military service. As of January 1, 2020, the number of weeks of leave
employees are entitled to will remain at 10, but the monetary benefits will rise to 60% of the employee’s average weekly wage or 60% of the statewide
Average Weekly Wage, whichever is lower. 60% of the Average Weekly Wage for 2020 is set to be $840.70. All employers are required to make these benefits
available and should review their handbooks to ensure their leave policies comply not only with the Paid Family Leave Law, but also with New York City’s
Earned Safe and Sick Time Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, and applicable disability laws.
Beginning on March 10, 2020, employers in New York City, including government agencies, will be prohibited from screening job applicants for marijuana
usage. The new law still allows employers to maintain anti-drug policies in the workplace and to test employees reasonably believed to be using marijuana
on the job. However, given the expansions of medical marijuana and the protections provided for medical marijuana users under human rights law, employers
are advised to tread carefully when considering testing employees for marijuana and best practices would include consulting first with their general
counsel. The new law does not apply to construction workers, commercial drivers, certain federal contractors, and healthcare and childcare providers.
Salary History Inquiries:
Effective January 6, 2020, New York City employers may not consider an applicant or current employee’s salary history in when hiring, promoting, or making
virtually any other employment decision. If an employee or applicant raises his or her salary as a means for negotiating the terms of their employment,
the employer may discuss and verify such information. Violations of these restrictions give applicants and employees the right to sue business owners
and seek significant damages under the New York City Human Rights Law. Generally, employers are best to avoid discussing an applicant or employee’s
salary history when making an employment decision and should consider other objective factors instead, such as experience, skills, and performance.
Plastic Bag Ban:
As of March 1, 2020, most stores will no longer be allowed to provide customers with single-use plastic bags except for customers who received public assistance.
The ban does not apply to pharmacies, restaurants, or to certain limited uses of plastic bags, however there is a strong push by the government to
encourage consumers to carry their own bags and move towards a total elimination or massive reduction in plastic bag use. Vendors who are prevented
from providing plastic bags will be required to charge five cents for paper bags used by their customers. Consumers and businesses alike should not
only be prepared for the new restrictions coming in March, but should also plan ahead for what may come next.
While this is not an exhaustive list of all changes in the law entering into 2020, we hope you found this information useful and that it will serve as
a catalyst for you working with counsel to ensure you and your business are keeping pace with the ever-evolving legal landscape. We wish you a happy
and prosperous New Year.