A Guide to Complying with New York State Labor Laws

In a state where nearly 1 in four workers is in a union, New York State has strong labor laws. Keeping up with the changes can add a lot of stress to an employer. While federal laws are strong, New York State labor laws are even stricter. In order to stay compliant while operating in New York State, you need to know what is expected of you legally.

The four most important elements of the state’s labor laws we’re going to summarize for you are:

  • NYS wage laws
  • The scheduling of employees including “on-call” regulations
  • New York’s laws against discrimination go beyond Federal anti-discrimination laws
  • Changes in New York’s Paid Family Leave

Remember these are only summaries, to learn these in grave detail as it’s required to comply with these laws will take serious time.

1. Learn the Wage Laws

As a precursor to hiring anyone to work for your business, you need to know how much to pay them. As the minimum wage climbs to $15 per hour by the conclusion of 2019, be prepared to offer at least that much to your workers. If you’re going to be competitive, you should offer more than that to your most skilled employees.

If you’re in the service industry, you need to pay your employees at least $5 an hour and they have to meet $10 every hour they’re at work. For restaurant owners, this could mean a higher labor cost than you had accounted for. The best way to ensure that everyone gets paid what they deserve in a service context is to encourage a culture of good tipping for everyone.

In New York, costs will be higher than mid-western or southern states and every industry will be more competitive. Thankfully, you can expect to ask for higher prices and expect tippers to be more generous. If you connect with other local businesses in your area, you can ask other business owners how they manage labor costs.

You need to also manage overtime pay for your employees. There are salary thresholds where if your employees make a certain amount per week, they may be exempt from overtime. Typically to get employees to want to work these kinds of jobs, they need to have a good salary with a strong benefits package.

Those salary thresholds are always changing, so keep an eye on what they are when you’re expanding your business.

2. How You Schedule Matters

A major issue in recent years for workers in New York has been how they’re asked to be on call, wait for schedules days in advance, or getting called in last minute. When employees work for a boss who expects them to always be on call, they can’t schedule child care, doctor’s appointments, or time to relax.

With the state’s current labor laws, most employees are entitled to 24 hours of consecutive time off in any given calendar week. While it could cause workers to be scheduled for 10 days straight of work, that time would have to be split over two weeks.

When a staff member is scheduled to work for eight hours but is sent home early, they are entitled to be paid for part of that shift. If an employee shows up to work, they’re entitled to be paid for at least four full hours or for the length of their entire shift if you only scheduled them for a few hours of coverage.

In retail, no one is allowed to be scheduled as “on-call” anymore, meaning that they can’t be asked to wait by the phone in case you need them to come in. If you might need them to come in, you’re better off just having them come to work, so you’ll have to compensate them either way under new laws.

If you can’t provide 72 hours’ notice to your employees, you can’t legally make them come in.

Fast food workers have rejoiced at the new legislation because workers are no longer allowed to be scheduled for a “clopen”. This phenomenon of closing one night and opening the next morning in the fast food industry can leave closing workers to wrap up their work after midnight and come back for a 6 AM shift. Without regard for a worker’s safety and well-being, these kinds of patterns have made the workplace unhealthy.

3. Anti-Discrimination Is the Law

If you have biases in hiring, providing services, or treating people around you with respect, New York isn’t the place for you. New York State Human Right Law protects your staff and contractors even more broadly than federal anti-discrimination laws.

Federal laws protect people based on their race, color, religion, disability, age, and nationality. New York’s laws protect discrimination based on gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status, or even whether you’re a victim of domestic violence.

New York also prohibits discrimination based on whether or not an employee cares for a child. That means that if an applicant isn’t hired or is fired because they need to provide basic needs for a child, it is an illegal act.

There are even laws now to address the gender wage gap. These laws are sure to spread throughout the country quickly. The biggest step is to prohibit any employer from asking what someone’s salary history is before they’re hired.

In some cases, employers have been required to post salaries for prospective employees to compare.

4. Paid Family Leave

Starting in 2018, New York codified paid family leave into law. Employees working most full-time salaried positions, most especially public employees, are now eligible for maternity or paternity leave.

Employees can qualify for eight weeks of leave, which are paid and job-protected so that they can care for a family member with a health issue or a child. Whether a child is adopted, in foster care, or was just born, family leave is applied regardless of their status.

This can also be applied if a family member is called to active duty in the military.

New York State Labor Laws Require You Read Up

If you want to understand New York State labor laws, you could spend hours on the phone with the department of labor. You could waste precious hours learning new terminology and all the specifics, only to step into a gap in the law and end up in trouble. Instead, hire a PEO expert to ensure that you don’t make any mistakes so you can get back to the work of running your business.

To learn how to recruit the best workers in New York using social media, check out our latest guide.