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HR Compliance Topics for New York Leaders
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What New York HR Leaders Need to Know Now

As a business leader, you already know that compliance is of utmost importance in any workplace. With a diverse workforce and a rapidly changing legal landscape, HR professionals and business owners in New York must stay up to date with the latest compliance requirements to protect both their organizations and employees. Failure to comply with these laws can result in costly legal consequences, reputational damage, and loss of employee trust.

A strong focus on compliance is essential for HR leaders in New York to maintain a fair and inclusive work environment while mitigating legal risks. Here are just a few of the statewide compliance updates for 2024.

Understanding Employment Discrimination Laws in New York

New York law protects employees from discrimination based on certain characteristics. These include age, race, creed, color, religion, national origin, citizenship or immigration status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, military status, sex, disability, genetic characteristics, familial status, marital status, political activities, legal use of any product (e.g., recreational marijuana) or legal recreational activities when not at work, or status as a victim of domestic violence. Employers are not allowed to treat employees unfairly because of these factors.

New York employers with 15 or more employees are covered by federal antidiscrimination laws, with the following discrimination exceptions:

  • Age (employers with ≥20 employees)
  • Citizenship status (employers with ≥4 employees)
  • Equal pay for men and women (all employers)

New York’s anti-discrimination law applies to employers with four or more employees.

What Is Prohibited?

New York law prohibits various discriminatory practices. Employers cannot refuse to hire, fire, or demote an employee based on their protected characteristics. It is also illegal to harass employees or create a hostile work environment because of these factors.

Employees in New York are protected from retaliation if they oppose discriminatory practices or file a complaint. Employers cannot take negative actions—such as firing or demoting—against employees who exercise their rights under anti-discrimination laws.

If an employee believes they have experienced discrimination, they can file a complaint with the Florida Commission on Human Relations (FCHR) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). It is important to file within the specified time limits, and the article provides contact information for both agencies.

If an employee successfully proves discrimination, they may be entitled to various remedies. These can include back pay (compensation for lost wages), reinstatement (getting their job back), promotion, compensatory damages (for emotional distress), and attorney’s fees.

New York’s Minimum Wage Changes through 2026

As of January 1, 2024, New York State’s minimum wage is $15 per hour. Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester Counties, as well as New York City’s minimum wages are all set at $16. These rates apply to most employees in the state, with some exceptions for tipped service and food service employees. Basic minimum wage will increase by 50¢ annually until they reach $16 and $17 per hour, respectively, in 2026.

For tipped employees, the minimum wage will also increase gradually. The current rate in New York State is $12.50 ($2.50 tip credit*) for service employees and $10 ($5 tip credit*) for food service workers. Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester Counties, as well as New York City require a $13.35 ($2.65 tip credit*) minimum wage for service employees and $10.65 ($5.35 tip credit*) for food service workers. * For hospitality employees only.

Home care aides are subject to a different pay policy. New York State currently has a minimum wage of $17.55 per hour for these employees, while Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester Counties, as well as New York City require pay of $18.55. Scheduled increases across the entire state are 55¢ per hour in 2025 and 2026.

All minimum wage increases are scheduled to take place on January 1 of each year.

Employers in New York are required to comply with the minimum wage laws. This includes ensuring that employees are paid at least the minimum wage rate for their work hours. Employers must also display the official minimum wage poster in a visible location.

The New York Department of Labor is responsible for enforcing minimum wage laws in the state. Employers who fail to comply with these laws may face penalties, including fines and potential legal action from employees.

Changes to New York Paid Family Leave Benefits

The New York Paid Family Leave Law (NY PFL) provides eligible employees with important benefits. These include up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave within a 52-week period for reasons like welcoming a new child (through birth, adoption, or foster care), providing care for a seriously ill family member, or supporting loved ones during a military deployment.

  • Maximum Weekly Benefit Increase: Employees eligible for NY PFL now have a higher maximum weekly benefit of $1,151.16. This is due to an increase in the New York State Average Weekly Wage (NYSAWW).
  • Employee Contribution Reduction: Employee payroll deductions for NY PFL have decreased in 2024. The contribution rate is now 0.373% of gross wages, with a maximum annual contribution of $333.25.
  • Potential Major Expansion: Prenatal Leave: Governor Hochul has proposed adding 40 hours of paid prenatal leave (possibly in addition to the existing 12 weeks of leave) to the NY PFL program. This would allow expectant mothers time off for prenatal medical care. How this will be structured and funded remains to be determined.

Salary Threshold Increases for Certain Exemptions

New York State has incrementally increased the minimum salary thresholds for employees to be considered exempt from overtime pay. The last increase went into effect March 12, 2024.

New Thresholds

  • Downstate NY (NYC, Long Island, Westchester): The minimum salary for exempt executive and administrative employees will rise to $1,227.19 per week (equivalent to an annual salary of $63,821.64).
  • Rest of NY State: The minimum salary for exempt executive and administrative employees will increase to $1,064.25 per week (equivalent to an annual salary of $55,359).

What You Need to Do:

  • Review Employee Classifications: Ensure all employees currently classified as exempt truly meet the new salary thresholds as well as the applicable duties tests for their exemption category.
    • If an employee doesn’t meet the new threshold, you must either increase their salary or reclassify them as non-exempt and eligible for overtime pay.

Restrictions on Employee Social Media Access Requests

Effective March 12, 2024, New York employers are now largely prohibited from accessing the personal social media accounts of employees or job applicants. Specifically, employers cannot:

  • Request or demand usernames, passwords, or login information for personal social media accounts.
  • Force employees/applicants to access their personal accounts in the presence of the employer.
  • Copy or reproduce information from personal social media accounts.

Important Exceptions

  • Voluntary Sharing: If an employee adds the employer to their personal account contacts, viewing is permitted.
  • Employer-Provided Accounts/Devices: Employers can access business-specific accounts or company-issued devices (as long as prior notice is given).
  • Publicly Available Information: Employers can view information that an employee or applicant has made openly accessible.
  • Investigations: Employers may access information voluntarily shared with them relevant to potential or reported misconduct.

Retaliation is prohibited. Employers cannot take adverse action against employees or applicants who refuse to provide access to their personal social media accounts.

ERISA and the SECURE Act

ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974) is the primary federal law governing private-sector retirement and health plans. It sets minimum standards for how these plans are managed, funded, and communicated to participants.

The SECURE Act (Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act of 2019) is a significant piece of legislation that amended ERISA. It introduced changes affecting retirement plans in these key areas:

  • Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs): The SECURE Act raised the age when individuals must start taking retirement plan distributions from 70½ to 72.
  • Part-time Employee Eligibility: It made it easier for long-term, part-time employees to become eligible to participate in 401(k) plans.
  • Expanded Access: It created the concept of Pooled Employer Plans (PEPs) allowing unrelated businesses to join a single retirement plan, promoting easier retirement savings access for smaller businesses.

SECURE 2.0, passed in 2023, further builds on the original SECURE Act with additional changes to ERISA. The key changes made are:

Increased Contribution Limits

  • Catch-up contributions: Allows higher contribution limits to retirement plans like 401(k)s and IRAs for workers age 50 and over.

Expanded Eligibility

  • Student loan payments: Employers can offer plans that allow employees to direct a portion of their salary towards student loan repayments, potentially treated the same way as contributions to retirement plans.
  • Long-term part-time workers: Makes it easier for long-term part-time workers to participate in employer-sponsored retirement plans.

Automatic Enrollment and RMD Changes

  • Automatic enrollment: Employers offering new retirement plans are required to automatically enroll employees, with an opt-out option.
  • Increased RMD age: The age at which individuals must begin taking mandatory withdrawals from retirement accounts (Required Minimum Distributions) is gradually increasing. It rose from 72 to 73 in 2023 and will eventually reach 75 in 2033.

Other Provisions

  • Increased tax credits for small businesses: Offers tax incentives for small businesses to establish or expand retirement plans for their employees.
  • Roth contributions in employer plans: Allows for contributions to Roth accounts within employer-sponsored retirement plans, potentially offering tax advantages in retirement.

Non-Compete Agreement Updates

Gov. Hochul vetoed S3100A/A1278, a law passed in June 2023 by the New York State legislature to prohibit employers from imposing non-compete agreements on covered employees. Here’s a breakdown of what Gov. Hochul’s veto of the non-compete agreement bill means for New York employers:

  • Non-compete agreements are still allowed. For now, employers in New York can continue using non-compete agreements with their employees. These agreements restrict employees from taking jobs with competing companies after they leave.
  • The veto doesn’t mean things won’t change. Gov. Hochul wanted the law changed to only apply to lower-wage earners. She believes a complete ban could hurt businesses. It’s possible a revised bill will be introduced in the future.
  • There might be limitations on who can sign non-compete agreements. While the veto stands, some employers might choose to limit non-compete agreements on their own. This could be based on salary level or job type.
  • Check existing contracts. If you already have non-compete agreements with your employees, those are likely still enforceable. However, it’s always best to consult with an employment lawyer for specific details.
  • Stay informed. The landscape of non-compete agreements in New York could change, so keep an eye out for future legislation or updates.

How Paycor Helps

Compliance is a moving target. Changes at the federal, state, and local levels can make HR leaders and business owners uneasy. Keeping up with everything can be a full-time job. Paycor helps more than 30,000 customers mitigate risk and stay ahead of regulations. To learn more, download our free HR Playbook: How Paycor Helps You Manage Compliance Risk, or take a compliance product tour

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