New York Bans ‘Captive Audience’ Meetings
Earlier this month, New York became the latest state to ban mandatory captive audience meetings when Governor Kathy Hochul signed into law Senate Bill 4982 and Assembly Bill 6604, amending New York Labor Law Section 201-d (“NYLL 201-d”).
The new law prohibits New York employers from requiring employees to attend any company meeting having the primary objective of communicating the employer’s opinion on joining a union. The new law also prohibits mandatory meetings that have the primary purpose of communicating the employer’s religious or political views. Not only does the new law make it unlawful for businesses to take adverse action against employees who refuse to attend these types of meetings, it also requires employers to post a notice notifying employees of their rights under the new law.
What is not included in the new law?
The good news is the law does not prohibit employers or their agents/representatives from having “casual conversations” with an employee on these topics provided participation is not required. In addition, the law does not apply to religious organizations exempt from Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with respect to religious speech.
Violations of the new law come with a penalty of a $300 fine for the first violation and $500 for each subsequent violation. Additionally, the law allows aggrieved parties to bring a direct action for equitable relief and damages against the company. Exactly what this will mean will be interesting to see. No specific guidance has been offered yet.
New York joins Connecticut, Minnesota, Maine, and Oregon, in banning captive audience meetings. However, like Connecticut, the New York law could face legal challenges. In Connecticut, employers have argued their law is unconstitutional as it restricts the employers’ First Amendment rights to free speech. Employers have also argued it is preempted by the National Labor Relations Act. One can expect similar arguments to be made in the New York courts, so this matter may not be settled yet.
Down the Road.
Now that the new law has been signed and is in place, New York employers must review their practices and consider taking steps to comply. This includes the law’s posting requirements. Employers should seek competent legal counsel for suggested language. Alternatively, employers could prepare to fight the law and defend non-compliance. This could be an expensive choice if your company becomes the test case, but that is a business decision for each company to make.
Brody and Associates regularly advises management on complying with the latest local, state, and federal employment laws. If we can be of assistance in this area, please contact us at email@example.com or 203.454.0560.