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New Year, New Laws

Each new year brings new employment laws.  In this post, we provide highlights of legislation passed in 2013 that will affect (and, in some cases, already is affecting) New York and NYC employers in 2014.

Pregnancy Accommodation (NYC Employers)

Legislation amending the New York City Human Rights Law will require most NYC employers to provide reasonable accommodation for an employee’s pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions.  The law takes effect on January 30, 2014 and applies to employers with at least four employees.  Under the amendment, employers must provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant women and those who suffer medical conditions related to pregnancy and childbirth, unless the employer can prove that the accommodation would cause an undue hardship.  Examples of accommodations include bathroom breaks, leave for a period of disability arising from childbirth, breaks to facilitate water intake, periodic rest for those who stand for long periods of time and assistance with manual labor.

In addition, employers must provide notice to employees about their rights under the pregnancy accommodation amendment to the New York City Human Rights Law.  The notice is to be in a form and manner to be determined by the NYC Human Rights Commission and must be provided to all employees within 120 days after January 30, 2014 (that is, by May 30, 2014) as well as to all new employees at the commencement of employment.

Paid Sick Leave (NYC Employers)

NYC’s Earned Sick Time Act requires NYC employers to provide all of their employees who work over 80 hours annually with up to five days (the equivalent of 40 hours) of paid sick leave per year.  Employees accrue one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked, with a cap of 40 hours per calendar year.

The law takes effect in two phases: the first phase (effective April 1, 2014) applies to employers with at least 20 employees within NYC, and the second phase (effective October 15, 2015) expands the law’s reach to include employers with at least 15 employees.  Despite these phases, businesses that employ less than the 15-to-20 minimum number of employees must still provide their workers with up to 40 hours of sick leave time – albeit unpaid – when the law takes effect.

Although accrual of sick leave begins on an employee’s first day of employment, employees are not entitled to take sick leave until they have been employed for 120 days.

The new law is 20-plus pages in length, containing special provisions addressing issues such as: requiring advance notice of the intention to use leave; incremental use of leave; requiring make-up days for use of leave; requests for doctor’s notes; treatment of and use of accrued, but unused, sick leave; written notice of the employee’s rights to sick leave; and exceptions for unionized workforces.

Further, despite being characterized as a sick leave measure, the law actually covers broader categories of absences, such as those relating to:

  • the employee’s own mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition;
  • the employee’s own preventative care;
  • the diagnosis, care or treatment of a family member’s illness, injury, or health condition;
  • closure of an employee’s place of business because of a public health emergency; and
  • an employee’s need to care for a child whose school or childcare provider has been closed because of a public health emergency.

Minimum Wage Increases (NY Employers)

Last, but certainly not least, minimum wage increases are already in effect.  On December 31, 2013, the minimum wage in New York rose to $8.00/hour.  Further, in order to be classified as exempt from overtime, most exempt employees must be paid at least $600 per week, in addition to satisfying the duties requirement for exempt status.

For hospitality-industry employers, the tipped wages for food service and non-food service workers did not change.  They are still $5.00/hour for food service workers and $5.65/hour for non-food service workers.  Overtime rates, however, did change.  The overtime rate for food service workers is now $9.00/hour and the overtime rate for non-food service workers is now $9.65/hour.