There are significant changes coming in 2016 of which all employers should be aware and for which they should prepare.
The first and most basic change is an increase in the New York State minimum wage to $9.00 an hour. The minimum wage for all "tipped" employees increases to $7.50 an hour and the "tip credit" is reduced to $1.50.
Even a "small" minimum wage violation by an employer can lead to potentially large liability when it affects numerous employees and when liquidated damages and attorneys' fees, which are mandated by law, are included. The overtime provisions of the law remain the same, but the overtime premium must be adjusted to account for the increased minimum wage.
Additional changes include:
- Previous anti-sexual harassment laws did not apply to employers with less than four employees. As of January 19, 2016, the laws apply to all employers.
- The New York State Human Rights Law will now allow employees who win sexual harassment lawsuits to collect attorneys' fees.
- Employers must provide reasonable accommodations to all pregnant employees, not just those with a pregnancy-related disability.
There are other changes to the laws affecting both employers and employees, including changes to New York's equal pay law, the right for employees to openly discuss their compensation and added protections for transgender individuals. Some of the new laws provide for liquidated damages of up to 300% for violations.
Employers are well advised to review their employment practices and policies before the new year to ensure compliance and avoid liability.