During 2018, a number of changes to employment law were announced, many of which are coming into force in 2019. Employers need to be aware of these changes and plan accordingly.
#1: An increase in paid family leave
As of January 1, 2019, New York employers with one or more eligible employees need to offer 10 weeks of employer-funded paid family leave, up from 8 weeks. Employees can take this leave to bond with a newborn baby, or adopted or foster children, or care for an ill family member, or support a loved one when a family member is deployed abroad on military service.
Full-time employees with 26 weeks service, or part-time employees who've worked 175 days are eligible for leave. Employees should receive 55% of their average weekly salary, capped at 55% of the New York State average ($1,357.11 in 2019), resulting in a maximum weekly benefit $746.41. Leave can run concurrent with leave policies allowed under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.
#2: in New York City, earned sick time now includes “safe time”
Certain changes to the New York City Earned Sick Time Act (now called the New York City Earned Safe and Sick Time Act (“ESSTA”)) that went into effect in May of 2018 mean that employees can take time off provided by this law in order to deal with the impact of a “family offense matter,” whether they or a family member is a victim, not just for reasons related to a medical need. Employers with five or more employees need to offer this paid time off, whereas those with fewer than five employees must offer it unpaid.
Under the ESSTA, the term “family offense matter” covers a wide range of offenses, including but not limited to harassment, sexual abuse, sexual misconduct, reckless endangerment, assault, identity theft, and grand larceny. The aim of the ESSTA is to ensure an employee has the time to make themselves or a family member safe, engage an attorney, work with social services, and take any other actions necessary to safeguard the psychological, physical, or economic wellbeing of the victim.
#3: Higher minimum wage rates
Since the start of 2019, minimum wage rates in New York are now higher than the amount mandated under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act ($7.25 per hour), and in and around New York City, those minimum wage rates are even higher than the new New York State minimum. Here are the rates you need to be paying, according to where you’re office is based and the employee thresholds:
Employers outside of New York City, Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester counties: $11.10 per hour
Employers in Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester counties: $12.00 per hour
Employers in New York City with fewer than 10 employees: $13.50 per hour
Employers in New York City with more than 11 employees: $15.00 per hour
New York City and State count every employee, whether full or part-time as one employee, therefore everyone eligible should receive an increase in wages. Also, Employers can’t use quarterly averages to determine your number of employees in the event your business has a fluctuating workforce. According to changes in the law, the number of employees “is based on the highest total number of employees at any given time during the current or prior calendar year and among all worksites.”
#4: Higher salary thresholds for executive and administrative overtime exemptions
As with many states, in New York overtime rates must be paid once an employee works more than 40 hours of work per week. However, many NY employers erroneously think that just because someone performs executive or administrative work and gets a weekly or monthly salary instead an hourly wage, the employer never has an obligation to pay that worker overtime. That is not the case – instead, your business has to pay overtime to any executive or administrative worker unless that worker is paid at least a certain minimum salary per week (as determined by the government).
Effective as of December 31, 2018, the weekly salary minimums that trigger the overtime payment obligation have been raised as follows:
Employers outside of New York City, Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester counties: $832.00 per week
Employers in Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester counties: $900.00 per week
Employers in New York City with fewer than 10 employees: $1,012.50 per week
Employers in New York City with more than 11 employees: $1,125.00 per week
For the purposes of determining the number of employees in your company, remember that both New York City and New York State count each employee, whether full or part-time, as one employee.
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