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New workplace rights for 2018

As sure as that football team from New England always seems to be in the Super Bowl, New York will always have new labor laws. When you’re a smaller employer, you are wearing a number of hats and it can be difficult to keep up with workplace legislation.

Here’s an overview of the workplace requirements for 2018:

  • Minimum wage increase: As of December 31, 2017, minimum wage in New York City will increase by $2 an hour to $13 an hour for companies with 11 or more employees. Smaller businesses (10 or fewer employees) will increase to $12, up from $10.50. For Long Island and Westchester County, the new minimum is $11, up from $10. For all other areas of New York State, the new minimum is $10.40, up from $9.70. (Little known fact: Back in 1960, the first New York minimum wage was $1.00 per hour.)

Employers violating the minimum wage law are subject to criminal prosecution and penalties. Employees may also take action in civil court.

  • Exempt employees increase:
    • The new minimum salary for  New York City employers with 11 or more employees is $975 per week ($50,700 annually); up from $825 per week ($42,900 annually)
    • The new minimum salary for  New York City employers with 10 or fewer employees is $900 per week ($46,800 annually); up from $787.50 per week ($40,950 annually)
    • For employers in Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester counties the new minimum salary is $825 per week ($42,900 annually); up from $750 per week ($39,000 annually)
    • For other counties in New York State the minimum salary is $780 per week ($40,560 annually); up from $727.50 per week ($37,830 annually)
  • Paid family leave: The New York Paid Family Leave Benefits Law requires employers to provide eligible employees with eight weeks of paid leave at 50 percent of their salary. Citizenship and immigration status do not affect an employee's eligibility for paid family leave. Employees may take paid leave to:
    • Care for a child up to 12 months after birth, adoption or foster care placement.
    • Care for a family member with a serious health condition.
    • Address urgent needs when a family member 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.

  • Salary Question Ban: Like California, New York City now prohibits asking about compensation history – specifically, salary, wages, commissions and benefits. The law does, however, allow an employer to ask about a prospect’s salary expectations.An employer does not violate the law if an applicant volunteers his or her salary information without any prompting.
  • Freelance isn’t free: Though this act took effect last July, it bears mentioning here. For the City of New York, the act protects workers performing services of $800 or more. Businesses must have a written contract and make timely, full payments. The act also has an anti-retaliation provision that stops employers from adverse acts towards freelancers who exercise their rights under the act.
  • Fair Workweek Act: This New York City act began late in 2017, and is aimed at retail and fast-food establishments:
    • On-call scheduling: Prevents retailers from putting employees on-call for shifts. Employers must post schedules 72 hours in advance.
    • Predictable scheduling: Fast food workers must have their schedules 14 days in advance. With less than 72 hours notice, workers must be paid a premium between $10 and $75, depending on the length of notice received.
    • Rest between shifts: There must be at least 11 hours between shifts to prevent having employees close one day and open the next.
    • Extra hours: Fast food employers must offer additional hours to current part-time staff before hiring new employees.
    • Non-profit paycheck deduction: Fast food employees can designate part of their salary to a non-profit of their choosing. Employers must deduct the amount from paychecks and pass on the funds to the organization.

Having an attorney with small-business experience to guide you through the myriad of labor and employment laws can help reduce your business’ risk. An attorney can also advise you on dealing with a problem employee or represent you in a lawsuit.

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