Major changes are in store for New York employers under a new bill passed in the waning hours of the 2019 legislative session. As part of an ongoing, multi-year effort to address sexual harassment and other discrimination and harassment issues, the New York legislature on June 19, 2019 passed Assembly Bill 8421 (“AB 8421”), a compendium bill that introduces new and refined employee protections against harassment, retaliation, and discrimination in the workplace. AB 8421 amends the New York State Human Rights Law (“NYSHRL”) to usher in new affirmative protections and procedural mandates that will significantly affect employer liability under state law. Building on protections previously enacted under the 2018 state budget, AB 8421 will expand prohibitions on nondisclosure agreements and arbitration agreements to categories of discrimination and harassment beyond sexual harassment. Key elements of AB 8421 are described below. READ MORE
In today’s complex world of employment law, the legislative landscape is changing faster than ever before. Companies can easily veer out of compliance, and into financial and reputational dangers. To guide employers through this maze, Lisa Lupion offers a precise path forward.
She begins by gathering an in-depth understanding of her client’s business and goals, and then evaluating the specific issue at hand, so that whether navigating a counseling issue or a complex litigation, she can understand every possible angle and design the best possible solution.
Lisa regularly litigates a broad range of employment issues in court, administrative agencies, and arbitration. Lisa also helps companies at all stages of development avoid litigation, or prevent a single-plaintiff matter from escalating to a class action. She has successfully handled a number of high-stakes arbitrations and internal investigations. In addition, she offers counseling on discrimination, harassment, equal pay, wage and hour issues, disability accommodations, termination and compensation. Lisa regularly advises clients on a variety of employment-related issues, including human resources policies and procedures, offer letters, severance agreements and employee termination.
Prior to joining Orrick, Lisa served as a law clerk to the Hon. Peter Leisure in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Posts by: Lisa Lupion
Last year, in the immediate aftermath of the #MeToo movement, both New York State and New York City passed sweeping legislation that sought to provide additional protections for individuals from sexual harassment (see our prior blog posts here). Perhaps most notable was legislation requiring all New York State employers to adopt a sexual harassment prevention policy by October 2018 and to conduct annual sexual harassment prevention training beginning no later than October 2019, among other things. Neither the State nor City legislatures appear to be slowing down – already this year, both have enacted additional worker protections. READ MORE
Late last month, the New York State Department of Labor released model sexual harassment prevention training videos that employers can use to train their employees, available here. While a welcome development, the videos alone do not fully comply with the State’s requirement that sexual harassment prevention training be “interactive” – employers must ensure that employees have the ability to ask questions and receive answers to their questions. The New York City Commission on Human Rights has also provided some new and welcome guidance to employers, releasing FAQs regarding NYC’s new sexual harassment prevention laws, available here. The FAQs primarily address which employers must conduct sexual harassment prevention training and how to calculate an employer’s number of employees for purposes of determining whether the employer is subject to the training requirements. READ MORE
This week, the United States Department Labor (“DOL”) is conducting its first listening session on the white collar exemptions under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”)—more commonly known as the “overtime rule.” Several additional listening sessions will take place later this month. The sessions are expected to focus on public opinion regarding changing the current minimum salary level for exempt employees from its current level of $455 per week ($23,660 annually). There is no fee to attend a session, but registration is required here.
These sessions are just the latest in the ongoing saga over revisions to the overtime rule that began two years ago in September 2016, when twenty-two states and dozens of business groups challenged the Obama administration’s overtime regulation revisions that were finalized earlier that year. The new rule was set to implement several changes, most notably raising the minimum salary level for exempt employees to $913 per week ($47,476 annually), effective December 1, 2016. Before the new rule could take effect, the Texas federal judge hearing the case issued a nationwide injunction preventing the DOL from implementing and enforcing it, based partially on a holding that the new rule exceeded Congress’s delegation of authority to the DOL. The Obama administration appealed, and after requesting additional time to respond, the Trump administration decided to uphold the position that the DOL had the authority to revise the applicable salary level. However, in July 2017, the DOL also issued a Request for Information (“RFI”) on the overtime rule, asking for the public to submit comments by the end of September. The following month, the district court judge granted the states’ and business groups’ motions for summary judgment, invalidating the regulation. The DOL decided to dismiss its appeal and instead to pursue its own regulatory rulemaking process.
The RFI asked broad ranging questions related not only to the salary level, but to other exemption-related requirements, such as the duties test. It elicited over 140,000 public comments, including from major representative and advocacy organizations such as the United States Chamber of Commerce and Independent Sector (representing the nonprofit sector). The Chamber opposed only an “excessive increase,” suggesting that based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a more modest increase to a minimum salary of $612 per week ($31,824 annualized) was more appropriate. The Chamber also expressed its opposition to any change to the duties test. The Independent Sector highlighted the heavy financial burden the proposed increase would bring to the already-financially-strained nonprofit/charitable organizations nationwide. It suggested that any change be phased in to permit organizations time to adapt, and also expressed concern that any potential change to the duties test would “significantly impact the operations of charitable organizations,” asking that any change be considered through a formal rulemaking process allowing the public time to comment and review.
Last week’s announcement on the listening sessions offered our first glimpse into the DOL’s rulemaking process since the RFI period closed last year. Notably, the agenda questions focus exclusively on the salary test—a much narrower set of questions than those posed in the RFI. Listening Session participants are asked to focus on the four following issues: (1) “the appropriate salary level (or range of salary levels) above which the overtime exemptions for bona fide executive, administrative, or professional employees may apply”; (2) “[w]hat benefits and costs to employees and employers might accompany an increased salary level”; (3) “the best methodology to determine an updated salary level”; and (4) whether the DOL should “more regularly update the standard salary level and the total-annual-compensation level for highly compensated employees.” Noticeably absent is any indication that DOL is considering automatic inflationary updating to the salary level test. This reverts back to the position in the Bush DOL that the Department did not have statutory authority to implement automatic updating. In any event, this suggests that the DOL is shying away from changes to the duties test or other more expansive revisions as the formal rulemaking process rarely expands beyond the scope of the informal information gathering. The answer will have to wait until the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is released, which is expected in January, at the earliest.
Effective November 26, 2017, retail employees in New York City will be entitled to advance notice of their scheduled shifts, and the practice of “on-call shifts”–where an employee is required to be available to work but not necessarily called to work–will be prohibited. These provisions are part of new “Fair Workweek” legislation aimed at providing “predictable schedules and predictable paychecks” for retail and fast food workers in New York City.
After the Supreme Court sat with an empty seat for more than one year, and following a hard-fought nominations process which saw the failed nomination of Judge Merrick Garland and Republican lawmakers resorting to the “nuclear option,” the Senate confirmed Neil Gorsuch of the Tenth Circuit to be the next Supreme Court Justice. His first day on the job was Monday, April 17th. But for those who are not familiar with Judge Gorsuch, the question remains: what kind of Justice will he be? READ MORE
The Second Circuit has affirmed the dismissal of a class action of New York City “black car” drivers who alleged they were misclassified as independent contractors by their dispatchers. In reaching its ruling, the Court found that multiple factors of the economic realities test weighed against employee status for the drivers.
Black car drivers provide rides to high-end clientele, such as business executives, celebrities, and dignitaries. In 2012, a class of drivers sued Corporate Transportation Group Ltd. and a number of its affiliates (collectively, the “dispatchers”) alleging they were misclassified as independent contractors in violation of the FLSA and New York Labor Law. After originally granting conditional class certification, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York granted the dispatchers’ motion for summary judgment, concluding the drivers were properly classified as independent contractors under both statutes. READ MORE
On April 5, 2017, the New York City Council passed an amendment to the New York City Human Rights Law prohibiting employers or their agents from inquiring about the salary history of an applicant. The law also restricts an employer’s ability to rely upon that salary history in determining the salary, benefits or other compensation during the hiring process “including the negotiation of a contract.” The term “salary history” is defined to include current or prior wages, benefits or other compensation, but does not include “objective measures of the applicant’s productivity such as revenue, sales or other production reports.”
There are several notable exceptions to the law. READ MORE
On January 9, 2017, New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo proposed a package of reforms to promote his vision of social justice within the state. The wide ranging set of proposals included two Executive Orders focused on eliminating the gender and race wage gap, which is one of the core stated goals of the New York Promise Agenda. READ MORE
Just before their December 31, 2016 planned effective date, the regulations proposed by the New York State Department of Labor in October 2016 were formally adopted on December 28, 2016. Pursuant to the regulations, New York City employees need to be paid a minimum of $42,900 annually to be considered exempt from overtime under the administrative and executive exemptions. Lower salary thresholds have been established for small New York City employers (10 or fewer employees) and for employers outside of New York City. An employee who earns less than the salary thresholds on and after December 31, 2016 will become non-exempt and overtime eligible unless their salaries are increased above the new salary threshold. New York State employers should also be mindful that the salary thresholds will increase annually through 2020. A complete schedule of the new salary thresholds by employer location and size can be found here.
For employers who might have suspended or reversed decisions to reclassify employees or increase their salaries when the federal overtime regulations were enjoined last month, the New York State Department of Labor did not leave much time to consider the options and address compensation practices. Although just formally adopted, the regulations are effective on December 31, 2016 as had been contemplated in the proposed regulations. (See New Minimum Wage FAQs).