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New York Labor & Employment Laws

Labor law or employment law is a set of laws and regulations that governs the management of people in organizations. Federal and state legislation, as well as local ordinances, determine employment regulations.

The New York labor laws provide higher employee protections than federal law, such as requiring smaller employers to carry health insurance. However, New York follows the federal law when it comes to topics such as work safety and overtime pay.

Listed below are certain employment requirements in New York to assist employers and employees in understanding the range of employment laws affecting employer-employee relationships. In addition to complying with federal laws, employers must also comply with New York working laws.

Why are Labor Laws Important?

The importance of employment laws (or labor laws) cannot be overstated; they are the foundation of our economy. The consequences of business violations can be devastating through governmental fines and legal actions, so businesses must implement best practices to ensure the well-being of the company and its employees.

These laws are designed to protect the employee in terms of safety, discrimination, wages, overtime pay, pay periods, illness or injury, and wrongful termination.

What is the Purpose of the Labor Law?

In most cases, these regulations deal with the fair treatment of employees. There are four main areas of employment law: Equal Employment, Total Rewards, Employee Safety and Health, and Labor Relations.

Equal Employment Opportunity

Equal Employment Opportunity laws are regulations related to the fair treatment of employees. Specific types of employment discrimination are prohibited by EEO laws. EEO laws and executive orders are designed to prohibit employment discrimination. The EEOC enforces compliance with these laws.

Anti-discrimination legislation has a primary objective to ensure the equitable treatment of all employees in the workplace. These laws prohibit employment discrimination based on race, religion, sex, color, and national origin in any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, promotions, and everything relating to employment and employment decisions. Discriminatory practices typically fall into one of four categories:

  1. Disparate treatment occurs when someone is treated differently due to a characteristic that defines their protected class.
  2. Isparate impact, which is a more subtle and usually unintentional form of discrimination.
  3. Harassment, which is unwanted and unwelcome behavior towards a protected class member.
  4. Retaliation, which forbids employers to punish their employees for making a complaint of harassment or discrimination.

Total Rewards: Compensation and Benefits

Historically, the administration of employee compensation, or total rewards, has been regulated by the federal, state, and local governments.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA} is administered by the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor. The Act sets standards for minimum wage, overtime pay, record keeping, and child labor.

Equal Pay laws prevent employers from paying employees at a rate lower than their counterparts based on their sex. Even though the Equal Pay Act was passed more than 50 years ago, there is still a gender pay gap. On average, women earn only 77 cents for every dollar men earn.

Mandatory benefits

Employers are required to make contributions on behalf of their employees to several social insurance programs, such as social Security, unemployment insurance, and workers’ compensation (for replacement of income and medical expenses).

In addition, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which provides paid leave in certain circumstances, can also be considered a mandated benefit even though it doesn’t require that paid leave be given beyond the employer’s leave policy.

Employee Safety and Health

To keep employees safe from injury, workplace safety laws comprise federal and state regulations. Nearly all employers are subject to these rules.

Workers are protected by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration(OSHA). OSHA ensures that employers follow safety regulations and keep their workplaces safe.

Workers’ compensation law is a set of state-mandated rules designed to pay the expenses incurred by employees injured on the job. Lost wages, medical expenses, disability payments,  and rehabilitation and retraining costs are recoverable. Workers’ compensation laws have been enacted in many states to reduce the risk of personal injury lawsuits for both the employee and the employer.

Labor Relations

Labor laws regulate relations between labor unions and their members, includinge setting up, negotiating, and administering collective bargaining agreements.

In addition to the laws described above, there are laws specific to each state. Whether you are an employee or an employer, it’s crucial to know the laws described above as well as the laws specific to each state.

What Are Labor Laws in New York?

Child Protection: New York has specific laws addressing child labor issues. The rules that provide the most protection to youth workers apply when federal and state standards differ. Employers must comply with both federal and state laws. The rules vary depending on the age and occupation of the youth worker.

Wages: For covered, nonexempt employees, the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. Tipped employees are those who work in a position where they receive tips exceeding $30 per month. Tip employees typically earn higher direct wages in many states. It is illegal for employers to offer or require unpaid work.

Overtime Pay: A worker may be required or permitted to work overtime by their employer. According to the Fair Labor Standards Act, workers who clock more than 40 hours per week are entitled to overtime pay. This is a general rule with few exceptions.

Safety in the Workplace: Workplace rights are important, especially those which keep you safe. You have the right to:

  • Be trained in a language that you understand
  • Be provided with all necessary safety equipment
  • Report an injury or illness
  • Speak out about dangerous working conditions without fear of retaliation

Discrimination: Several laws protect employees and job candidates against discrimination, harassment, and unfair treatment in the workplace by anyone for reasons such as:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Age (40 or older)
  • Genetic information
  • Disability
  • Pregnancy
  • Religion
  • Sex (including gender identity, transgender status, and sexual orientation)
  • National origin
  • Being denied reasonable workplace accommodations for a disability or religious beliefs
  • Retaliation because:
  • The employee complained about discrimination on the job
  • The employee helped with an investigation or lawsuit

What Are the Rights of Employees in New York?

There are many rights over and above what the federal employment laws in New York are. Overall, the rights of employees in New York include the following:

The Right to Safety: Employees have the right to a safe workplace, such as one free from cigarette smoke. Employees also must be provided with the training and safety equipment necessary to do their job.

The Right to Fair Pay: Both federal and New York labor laws define the minimum wage for workers. There are exceptions, such as tipped employees and youth workers, but all adults should be paid equally, regardless of their sex.

The Right to a Discrimination-Free Workplace: Employees have the right to a workplace free from harassment and discrimination, no matter their race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or age.

The Right to Fair Working Hours: Labor laws define the maximum working hours an employee can be required to work, and these laws include the number of hours between shifts, the maximum number of working hours in a shift, breaks, and when overtime is supposed to be paid. 

What Is An Example of an Employment Law in New York?

Concerning references, employee performance comments made by the employer are liable as long as the employer acts in good faith. This immunity, however, will not be applicable in the following circumstances:

  • False or misleading information that was knowingly provided.
  • A malicious purpose was behind the rendering.
  • Infringed on the civil rights of the employee.

This is just one example of labor law in New York. There are many categories of labor laws and employment rights that all employees and employers should be aware of.

What is the Purpose of the Labor Law?

Employers and employees both need to understand employment law. Employees should know their rights so they don’t suffer unfair treatment, and employers should be aware of federal and New York employment laws to avoid legal action resulting from ignorance.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the Minimum Wage in New York?

Minimum wage in New York is determined by the location and size of the company. The minimum wage for non-tipped employees is as follows:

  • New York City (NYC) businesses with 10 or fewer employees: $13.50 per hour(as of 12/31/2018)
  • NYC businesses with 11 or more employees: $15 per hour
  • Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester county businesses for all workforce sizes: $14

2. Do Employers in New York Have to Provide Paid Family Leave?

New York state employment law provides 12 weeks of paid family leave benefits to eligible employees (those who have been employed by the company for six months).

As of 2021, the employee leave policy covers 12 weeks of time off. A nominal employee payroll deduction funds the new family leave program, resulting in no cost to businesses.

3. Can You Be Forced to Work Overtime in New York?

Yes. The most common questions are whether your employer can mandate overtime work and if they can fire you if you refuse to perform this overtime work. The short answers are that yes, they legally can require you to work overtime, and yes, they can also legally fire you if you refuse to do that work.

Overtime must be paid to employees who work more than 40 hours/week IF the employee is paid by the hour. Although the 40-hour workweek averages out to 8 hours per day, overtime in New York is calculated weekly and will be reflected on the employee’s paycheck for that pay period.

4. What is the youngest age to begin employment in New York?

During school breaks, vacations, and holidays (all classes are canceled):

  • Minors under 18 cannot work more than eight hours per day day, six days per week
  • Minors 14 and 15 cannot work more than 40 hours per week
  • Minors 16 and 17 may not work more than 48 hours per week

5. In New York, can you be fired without cause?

According to New York law, employment is at-will, meaning an employee can be terminated at any time for any reason if there is no written employment contract, provided there is no discrimination and no retaliatory action taken against the employee.

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