2018 Compliance Recap for New York State and City Employers: This Year was a Whirlwind!
2018 brought more compliance challenges and administrative burdens to employers in New York State and New York City. Below is a quick recap of a few of these laws to ensure you are in compliance going into the New Year!
New York State
- Sexual Harassment Policy and Training Requirements – All employers in New York State are now required to have and implement a sexual harassment policy and complaint form compliant with State law. Employers are also required to train all employees on sexual harassment by October 9, 2019. Training must be conducted annually. Form policies and training are available from New York State but the tone is very anti-employer. Therefore, we recommend you contact competent Labor and Employment Counsel to discuss this issue and institute a training program that is more employer-friendly, but still NYS compliant.
- Paid Family Leave – Employers are now required to provide paid time off (funded through employee contributions) for employees to bond with newly born, adopted, or fostered children, care for family members with a serious illness, or assist loved ones when a family member is deployed abroad on active military service. While in 2018, an employee was entitled to eight weeks of paid leave for these purposes, the amount increases to ten weeks in 2019. Except for employers who self-insure, Paid Family Leave benefits will be provided as a rider through the employer’s NYS disability benefits policy. The employee’s contribution to the premium is taken from the employee’s paycheck. Employers must inform employees about their right to paid family leave in the written materials distributed to employees such as employee handbooks. For more information, see our previous article here.
- Wage and Hour Laws – On December 31, 2018, the minimum wage and salary threshold for exempt employees increases. For further information, see our other articles in this Monthly Legal Update.
New York City
- Sexual Harassment Notices and Training Requirements – All employers in New York City are required to post the City-created Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act Notice and distribute the Stop Sexual Harassment in NYC Act Fact Sheet to new hires and independent contractors. These documents are available on the New York City Commission on Human Rights webpage. Effective April 1, 2019, Employers with 15 or more employees are required to train employees and certain independent contractors on sexual harassment. Independent contractors are included in the count for the employee threshold. For more information, see our previous article here.
- Cooperative Dialogue Mandated for Accommodations– Employers must engage in cooperative dialogue within a reasonable time frame with a person who has requested an accommodation related to: (1) religious needs; (2) a disability; (3) a pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition, or (4) such person’s needs as a victim of domestic violence, sex offenses, or stalking. An employer is also required to engage in a cooperative dialogue with an individual it has notice may require an accommodation. Under the law, all accommodations are deemed reasonable unless a covered entity shows the requested accommodation would cause it an undue hardship. Please note, an employer’s failure to engage in a cooperative dialogue with an employee requesting an accommodation is an independent violation of the New York City Human Rights Law. For more information, see our previous article here.
- Lactation Room Requirements – Effective March 18, 2019, Employers must provide a lactation room and a refrigerator suitable for breast milk storage in reasonable proximity to the employee’s work area. If the lactation room is an undue hardship on the employer, it must engage in a cooperative dialogue with the employee. For further information, see our article in this Monthly Legal Update.
- Lactation Accommodation Policy – Effective March 18, 2019, an employer must adopt a written policy regarding the provision of a lactation room which must be distributed to new employees upon hiring. The policy must include a statement that employees have a right to request a lactation room and identify a process by which employees may request a lactation room. This process must include: (a) the means by which an employee may submit a request for a lactation room; (b) require the employer to respond to a request for a lactation room within a reasonable amount of time not to exceed five business days; (c) provide a procedure to follow when two or more individuals need to use the lactation room at the same time, including contact information for any follow up required; (d) state the employer shall provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk; and (e) state that if the request for a lactation room poses an undue hardship on the employer, the employer shall engage in a cooperative dialogue with the employee. For further information, see our article in this Monthly Legal Update.
- NYC Earned Sick Time Act Also Now Covers “Safe Time” – Since May 2018, employers in New York City have been required to give employees notice of their right to safe leave as an expansion of the New York City Earned Sick Time Act. This includes time off if the employee or a family member has been the victim of a family offense, sexual offense, stalking, or human trafficking, and permits such employees to use up to 5 days of leave for court appearances, meetings with law enforcement, serving an order of protection, counseling, or moving to get away from an abuser.
- Temporary Changes to Work Schedules for Personal Events – Employers are required to allow employees who have been employed at least 120 days and who work at least 80 hours in a calendar year to make two temporary schedule changes per year for certain personal events for up to one business day per request. For more information, see our previous article here.
- Expansion of Definitions of “Gender” and “Sexual Orientation” under NYC Human Rights Law – The definition of “sexual orientation,” which previously covered “heterosexuality, homosexuality, or bisexuality” was expanded to include an “individual’s actual or perceived romantic, physical or sexual attraction to other persons, or lack thereof, on the basis of gender” and also includes protections for individuals who identify as asexual or pansexual. The law also revises the definition of “gender” to clarify that it includes “a person’s actual or perceived gender-related self-image, appearance, behavior, expression, or other gender-related characteristic, regardless of the sex assigned to that person at birth.”
For employers in New York State and New York City, staying current and complying with ever-expanding employment laws poses quite a challenge. You should contact competent labor and employment counsel if any of the above laws are news to you.
Brody and Associates regularly provides counsel on state and local employment law compliance. If we can be of assistance in this area, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 203.454.0560.