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Legal Update - May 2016 Newsletter

Yogi Patel - Thursday, May 12, 2016

Dear valued clients and supporters: This month's newsletter will focus on: (1) the I-9 employment verification process; (2) the gradual rise in the minimum wage to $15 per hour in NYS; and (3) paid medical leave in New York.

The I-9 Verification Process
The Form I-9 is the primary mechanism that employers are required to use for the purposes of verifying an individual's identity and authorization to work in the United States. Under federal law, employers must have all prospective employees complete an I-9 form, along with other official documents, before they are able to commence their employment. However, as federal law also protects all individuals against immigration-based discrimination, employers cannot simply have job applicants fill out an I-9; they must integrate the I-9 into a hiring process that ensures equal treatment of everyone. For example, if an employer asks an an individual as part of the job application to fill out an I-9, the employer could be found to have committed employment discrimination and/or document abuse. It is only after an employer has decided to hire someone that the individual's authorization to work may be verified. Further, when an employee is completing an I-9, an employer may not insist that the employee provide a specific employment authorization document, such as a passport or green card. Federal law provides a list of acceptable documents an employee may provide, and an employer who attempts to restrict the list will be penalized. The punishment for acts of employment discrimination and/or document abuse can be as much as thousands of dollars per violation, which can quickly add up to tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars depending on how many applicants an employer processes. The financial penalties increase for repeat offenders, and eventually employers can be imprisoned if they engage in a pattern of hiring unauthorized workers. For further information on the proper protocols employers should follow and how to avoid the pitfalls of the I-9 process, please return here to our website next month for a more in-depth article.

$15 Minimum Wage
As part of the 2016-2017 state budget, legislation in New York was passed that gradually will raise the minimum wage state-wide to $15 per hour. The increases will vary based on business size and location according to the following schedule: For New York City businesses with 11 or more employees, the minimum wage will be $11 per hour at the end of 2016, after which it will increase by $2 annually until it reaches $15 on December 31, 2018. For New York City businesses with 10 or fewer employees, the minimum wage will be $10.50 per hour at the end of 2016, then it will rise by $1.50 per year until December 31, 2019, when it reaches $15. For businesses in Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester Counties, the minimum wage will be $10 per hour by the end of 2016, followed by annual increases of $1 until it reaches $15 on December 31, 2021. Finally, for business elsewhere in the state, the minimum wage will be $9.70 per hour at the end of 2016, and it will grow by 70 cents a year until it reaches $12.50 on December 31, 2020. At that point, the minimum wage will continue to increase until it reaches $15 per hour according to a new schedule to be set by the Division of Budged (DOB). One minor caveat to this legislation is that in 2019, the DOB Director will analyze the regional economies state-wide and will have the authority to freeze any increases deemed necessary. Employers and Employees alike should stay abreast of any and all updates to the minimum wage and the scheduled increases as set by the DOB.

Paid Family Leave
Also as part of the 2016-2017 budget, legislatures passed a program that entitles employees to 12 weeks of paid family leave to care for a newborn or a seriously ill family member. Beginning in 2018, employees who have worked for an employer for six months will be eligible to receive 50 percent of their average weekly wage for up to 12 weeks under the program. The total amount an employee may receive will be capped at 50 percent of the state-wide average weekly wage. By 2021, the figures will increase to 67 percent of an employee's average weekly wage, capped at 67 percent of the state-wide average. The program will be funded through a small payroll deduction, so there will be no costs to businesses. Employers should, however, ensure that their payroll practices are updated as the implementation date for the program approaches.

Readers are encouraged to follow us on Twitter (@lloydpatelllp) and Facebook to receive updates on these and other issues throughout the month.


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