Many employers across the nation have been waiting for guidance when it comes to various federal policies, including on absence management and overtime. New York, however, has decided to move forward with five policies — salary thresholds for overtime exemption, state minimum wage increases, paid family leave, discrimination protection guidance and salary history questions. Lawyers from general practice firm Vedder Price break down what New York employers need to know.
Salary thresholds for overtime exemption
The salary threshold for administrative and executive employees to be exempt from overtime will increase on Dec. 31. For the first time in New York, the salary level to be exempt from overtime pay will be different in different areas of the state, says Vedder Price shareholder Jonathan Wexler.
For New York City employers with 11 or more employees, wages will increase to $975 per week, or $50,700 a year, from $825 per week, or $42,900 a year. New York City employers with 10 or fewer employees will need to increase wages to $900 per week, or $46,800 a year, from $787.50 per week, or $40,950 a year.
Employers based in Long Island and Westchester County will need to increase the salary threshold to $825 per week, or $42,900 a year, from $750 per week, or $39,000 a year. Employers upstate will need to increase wages to $780 per week, or $40,560 a year, compared to last year’s mandate of $727.50 per week, or $37,830 a year.
The threshold will increase again in 2018, and Long Island- and Westchester-based employers will see overtime thresholds increase every year until 2021.
State minimum wage increases
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill in April that would gradually increase the minimum wage across the state to $15 an hour. While the increases began in 2016, employers need to raise the minimum wage again on Dec. 31.
Employers in New York City with 11 or more employees will need to raise the minimum wage from $11 an hour to $13 an hour; employers in New York City with 10 or fewer employees will need to raise the minimum wage from $10.50 an hour to $12 an hour. Long Island- and Westchester-based employees should be making $11 an hour, up from $10 an hour in 2016. Employers upstate need to raise the minimum wage from $9.70 an hour to $10.40 an hour.
The required minimum wage is based on where an employee works, regardless of the location of the employer’s main office, Wexler says.
Paid family leave
Starting on Jan. 1, 2018, New York employers are required to provide paid family leave benefits to employees who have worked for at least 26 consecutive weeks. The benefits will start at 8 weeks at 50% of the employee’s average weekly salary and gradually increase to 12 weeks of paid leave at 67% of the employee’s average weekly salary by 2021.
The program is funded by employee deductions, which cost $1.63 a week per employee, Wexler says. Those deductions can start on Jan. 1, 2017 to build up money once the program begins in 2018, he says. Employers are not required to fund any portion, and the law protects against the loss of any employment benefits accrued prior to the leave.
The employee must use the benefit to provide physical or psychological care to a family member with a serious health condition; to bond with the employee’s child during the first 12 months after the child’s birth or after the placement of the child for adoption or foster care with the employee; use for any qualifying need under FMLA arising out of active duty in the armed forces, according to Vedder Price.
Employees must provide their employer with a written notice and proof of need, as well as give at least 30 days of notice. The law will not cover absences resulting from the employee’s own medical condition, which Wexler notes is a major difference from the FMLA. Similarly, the FMLA can be used for pre-natal time off whereas this policy cannot, according to the firm. New York’s paid family leave cannot run concurrently with the FMLA.
Employers must reinstate any employee who takes paid family leave, and health insurance needs to be maintained, Wexler says. HR also needs to amend their employee handbook with this information, and should work with a broker to purchase an insurance policy for paid family leave.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York City Commission of Human Rights issued guidance on protections against discrimination on the basis of pregnancy and gender identity/gender expression.
The guidance focuses on examples employers can and cannot do in regards to providing pregnant employees on unpaid leave and reasonable accommodations.
Employers also can view guidance that focuses on violations for failing to use an employee’s preferred name or pronoun, refusing to allow employees to utilize single-sex facilities and imposing different dress codes or grooming standards based on sex or gender, says Vedder Price shareholder Blythe Lovinger.
Salary history ban
The law — which prohibits employers from asking about salary history of a job applicant for employment or relies on the salary history of a job applicant to determine salary or benefits during the hiring process — went into effect Oct. 31, but it’s still important that employers be reminded of the policy change.
The law doesn’t apply to employees’ applications for internal transfers or promotions, as well as public employees’ salaries or benefits, which are determined through collective bargaining, Lovinger says.
As many as tens of millions of women may never return to the labor force, even after a vaccine is found. Altogether, global gross domestic product could be $1 trillion less in 2030 than it would be without a gender unemployment gap.
By Olivia Rockeman, Reade Pickert and Catarina Saraiva