Employers in New York State have faced numerous challenges this year with the COVID-19 pandemic and the enactment of wide-ranging new employment laws. While the cost of doing business and having employees has gone up in New York State, these laws also make it a better place to work and protect employees.

Employers who follow the laws and value their employees will almost certainly enjoy more loyal employees and less turnover. Let’s take a look at some of the new laws and regulations:

NYS Paid Sick Leave
The most significant new law is the statewide sick leave law requiring private employers, including staffing and direct hire firms, to provide their employees with sick leave each calendar year. The law took effect Sept. 30, and eligible employees began accruing sick leave on that date. As of Jan. 1, 2021, employees have been able to start using their accrued sick leave.

The amount of sick leave employees are eligible to accrue, and whether it is paid or unpaid, is determined by the employer’s number of employees and net income in a given calendar year, as follows:

  1.  Employers with 4 or fewer employees and a net income of less than $1 million in the previous tax year must provide employees with at least 40 hours of unpaid sick leave per calendar year. 
  2. Employers with 4 or fewer employees and a net income of greater than $1 million in the previous tax year must provide employees with at least 40 hours of paid sick leave per calendar year. 
  3. Employers with between 5 and 99 employees in any calendar year must provide employees with at least 40 hours of paid sick leave per calendar year.
  4.  Employers with 100 or more employees in any calendar year must provide employees with at least 56 hours of paid sick leave per calendar year. 

All the details about the new law can be found here

Increased NYS Paid Family Leave (PFL)
Beginning January 1, 2021, New York employers must increase the amount of employee-funded PFL provided to applicable employees from 10 to 12 weeks.  The leave, which applies to all NY employers, may be taken to bond with newly born, adopted, or fostered children; care for family members with a serious health condition; or assist loved ones when a family member is deployed abroad on active military service.  Employees may also be eligible to use PFL if a worker or a minor dependent child are under an order of quarantine or isolation due to COVID-19.  Full-time employees (who have worked 26 consecutive weeks) and part-time employees (who work less than 20 hours per week and have worked a total of 175 days) are eligible for the leave. 

Eligible employees will receive 67% of their average weekly wage (up from 60%), capped at 67% of the NYS average weekly wage which, for 2021, will be $1,450.17, making the maximum weekly benefit $971.61.  Employees contribute .511% of their gross wages each pay period capped at $385.34 annually.  PFL can be used consecutively or intermittently.  To the extent applicable employers wish PFL to run concurrent with the Family and Medical Leave Act, handbooks must reflect this.  PFL and disability leave cannot be taken at the same time.  

Minimum wage and overtime exempt salary threshold

Minimum Wage Increase
Employers generally must pay nonexempt employees at least the minimum wage. Minimum wage throughout New York State may vary based on the employer’s size, geographic location, or industry.  There are different hourly rates for workers in the fast food industry and those who receive tips.  For most businesses in the North Country, the minimum wage is now $12.50 per hour.

For the North Country, annual increases to minimum wage will continue until the rate reaches $15.00 per hour. The annual increases will be published by the New York State Commissioner of Labor starting October 2021. These annual increases will be based on percentage increases determined by the New York State Director of the Division of Budget, based on economic indices, including the Consumer Price Index.

Increased Salary Threshold for Overtime Exemption
Both federal law (Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)) and state law (New York State Minimum Wage Act and applicable regulations) generally require the payment of overtime wages for work performed after 40 hours per week. However, there are exemptions for certain salaried employees from federal and state minimum wage and overtime pay requirements. In addition to New York State’s minimum wage increase, the minimum salary that must be paid to workers classified as exempt under New York State Labor Law’s administrative and executive exemptions increased for 2021. As with minimum wage, the salary thresholds vary depending on the employer’s location and the number of employees. In the North Country, the new salary threshold for an employee to be considered exempt is $937.50 per week or $48,750 annually.

Reminder to Conduct Annual Sexual Harassment Training
New York State employers with one or more employees who work at least 80 hours in a calendar year must conduct annual sexual harassment training by end of the year if they have not yet done so.  The training requirement, which went into effect in 2019, must be interactive. 

Employers should consider live training for management-level employees and ETS can conduct that training.

If these new laws seem overwhelming, you’re not alone. The good news is you don’t have to go at it alone! Did you know you can outsource your payroll and HR to ETS? We act as the Employer of Record for your team which means we can organize customized payroll services, benefits management, complete government compliance assistance and all that other paperwork you’ve been stressing about. More importantly, it means you don’t have to.

For more information on payroll and HR outsourcing, or Sexual Harassment Training, call the office at 518.562.4673 or live chat us now.