After a flurry of legislative activity towards the end of 2019, several new employment laws will go into effect in New York at various points in the new year. Household employers will need to comply with these new laws.
Clients of GTM Payroll Services can call (800) 929-9213 and speak with our household employment advisor if you have any questions about complying with these laws.
Here are seven employment laws New York household employers need to know for 2020.
1. Minimum wage rates
As of December 31, 2019, the minimum wage rates in New York state relevant to household employers will be:
New York City with 10 or fewer employees
$15/hour (increases from $13.50/hour)
Westchester and Long Island
$13/hour (increases from $12/hour)
The remainder of New York State
$11.80/hour (increases from $11.10/hour)
Household employees must be paid at least the prevailing minimum wage rate. Since the federal rate remains at $7.25/hour, New York’s state and local rates will apply.
2. Salary history
Beginning January 6, 2020, New York employers will be prohibited from inquiring into an applicant’s salary history during the hiring process or from current employees.
That means you can’t rely on an applicant’s wage or salary history in determining whether to offer employment to that individual or in determining that individual’s wages. You can’t request or require wage or salary history from an applicant or current employee in order for them to be interviewed, continue to be considered for employment, or as a condition of employment or promotion.
You are prohibited from asking for an applicant’s or employee’s salary history from past or current employers or employees. You also can’t refuse to interview, hire, promote, otherwise employ, or retaliate against an applicant or current employee based upon prior wage or salary history or because they didn’t provide their wage or salary history.
Applicants and current employees may voluntarily, and without prompting, disclose or verify their wage or salary history. For example, when negotiating wages. In that event, you may confirm their salary information.
Applicants and employees can sue for compensatory damages sustained as a result of a refusal to hire or retaliation based on failure to provide wage or salary information.
3. Protecting employee medical privacy
Employers in New York are not allowed to discriminate or take retaliatory action against an employee because of their or the employee’s dependent’s reproductive health decision making.
Reproductive health decision making includes decisions on obtaining fertility-related medical procedures, using birth control drugs or contraceptive devices, or having an abortion.
While HIPAA policies are in place to protect an employee’s medical privacy, you could access information from insurance summaries and other human resources documents to learn about an employee’s healthcare decisions. The so-called ‘Boss’ law prohibits employers from accessing an employee’s personal information and prohibits any subsequent discrimination or penalization for matters having nothing to do with job performance.
Your employees have the right to file a claim in court if they feel you have violated the prohibition on discrimination based on reproductive health decision making. Employees are also protected from retaliatory actions including discharging, suspending, demoting, or otherwise penalizing an employee.
If you provide an employee handbook, you must revise your handbook to include a notice of employee rights and remedies under New York Labor Law Section 203-e.
4. New York State Human Rights Law
Worker protections have been expanded under the state’s human rights law (NYSHRL). While some of these legal requirements became effective in 2019, the law only applied to employers with four or more employees excluding many families that have hired household help. However, as of February 8, 2020, the definition of an employer under the NYSHRL will include employers of any size.
The law will make it easier for workers to file harassment and discrimination claims and more difficult for employers to successfully defend those claims. It specifically mentions that employers may be liable for harassment, discrimination or retaliation against domestic workers among other allegedly aggrieved individuals under the NYSHRL. Employer liability for harassment, discrimination, and retaliation claims will also increase.
On August 12, 2020, the limitations period for asserting a claim of sexual harassment under the NYSHRL will be expanded from one year to three.
5. Confidentiality agreements
If you include a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) as part of your work agreement or contract with your employee, you must add language allowing the employee or potential employee entering into the NDA to speak with “law enforcement, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the state Division of Human Rights, a local commission on human rights, or an attorney retained by the employee or potential employee.” This takes effect for NDAs entered into on or after January 1, 2020.
If you don’t include this language, the NDA will be void and unenforceable to the extent they prevent disclosure of factual information related to any future claims of discrimination.
6. Testing for cannabis
Beginning May 10, 2020, most employers in New York City will no longer be allowed to require applicants to submit to a pre-employment test for cannabis.
There are some exceptions to this law including positions requiring supervision of children.
This law applies only to pre-employment testing of job candidates and makes no reference to current employees. You may still prohibit cannabis use at work, conduct reasonable suspicion testing of your employees and testing that arises out of an accident involving a current employee, and discipline employees for working while impaired.
Also, New York state law considers certified users of medical marijuana as having a disability under the NYSHRL and entitled to all the legal protections of other employees and applicants with disabilities.
7. Domestic violence victim leave
New York employers must grant leave for domestic violence victims. This law took effect on November 18, 2019. You must provide a reasonable amount of leave to:
- Seek medical attention for injuries caused by domestic violence (including for a child victim);
- Obtain services from a domestic violence shelter, program or rape crisis center as a result of domestic violence;
- Obtain psychological counseling related to an incident of domestic violence (including for a child victim);
- Participate in safety planning and take other actions to increase safety from future incidents of domestic violence, including temporary or permanent relocation; or
- Obtain legal services, assist in the prosecution of the offense, or appear in court in relation to the incident of domestic violence.
An exception will be granted if you can show the leave will cause you undue hardship. Employees may need to provide advance notice of the leave or documentation of the leave when it is not foreseeable.
Failure to provide the leave as required will constitute an unlawful discriminatory practice and you could be subject to civil fines and penalties of up to $50,000, or $100,000 if the violation is found to be willful, wanton or malicious. Victims may also be awarded back pay and damages. Employers must maintain the confidentiality of any information about an employee’s status as a victim of domestic violence, to the extent allowed by law.
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