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Client Alert

New York Employers Face Far-Reaching Employment Law Changes in 2014
Authors: Kenneth W. Taber, Teresa T. Lewi

1/6/2014

The arrival of 2014 has already ushered in major reforms to New York’s employment law landscape, with broad ramifications, particularly for New York City employers. The sweeping changes to the state’s minimum wage and unemployment insurance program, as well as New York City’s pregnancy accommodation and paid sick leave laws, could prove costly to employers that fail to address the laws’ new requirements.

New York State Minimum Wage Rises

On December 31, 2013, New York’s minimum hourly wage increased from $7.25 to $8.00, and will rise to $8.75 and then to $9.00, effective December 31, 2014 and December 31, 2015, respectively. The New York Department of Labor (“NYDOL”) is expected soon to finalize its regulations detailing the impact of these minimum wage increases on tipped employees.1

New York City Law Requires Reasonable Accommodation for Pregnant Employees

Effective January 30, 2014, an amendment to the New York City Human Rights Law (“NYCHRL”) will require city employers with four or more employees to reasonably accommodate their employees’ pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions, so long as the accommodation enables the employee to perform the essential functions of her position. Prior to the amendment’s passage, employers’ obligations to provide reasonable accommodations were limited to those employees with actual disabilities.

The NYCHRL defines “reasonable accommodation” as an accommodation that does not cause the employer an “undue hardship.” While employers may raise undue hardship as an affirmative defense to their reasonable accommodation obligation, they then have the burden to prove that the requested accommodation would actually cause undue hardship, which may involve evaluating the nature and cost of the accommodation, the size and financial resources of the employer and the facility at issue, and the nature of the employer’s operations.

To comply with the NYCHRL, employers must also provide a written notice of the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition. Employers must distribute this notice to new employees at the start of their employment and to existing employees within 120 days of the law’s effective date, though the form and manner of the written notice has yet to be determined by the New York City Commission on Human Rights. Employers that violate the NYCHRL can face private actions and liability for punitive damages and attorneys’ fees.

New York City Employees Entitled to Paid Sick Leave

In 2013, the New York City Council overrode Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s veto to enact the Earned Sick Time Act (the “Act”),2 which amends the NYC Charter and the NYC Administrative Code to require private-sector employers in the city to provide a certain amount of sick leave to employees—and for most employees, that sick leave must be paid. Before the Act takes effect on April 1, 2014, employers should make any necessary changes to their leave policies and employee handbooks to confirm that they are in full compliance with the new law, summarized below.

Generally, employees who have worked for an employer for more than 80 hours in a calendar year, on either a full- or part-time basis, are entitled to use sick leave. Notably, the Act does not apply to federal, state, or local governmental employers, as well as certain employers in the manufacturing sector.3 The Act also excludes independent contractors, federal work-study participants, and certain hourly professional employees licensed by the New York State Education Department who call in for work assignments and receive an hourly wage at least four times greater than the federal minimum wage. In addition, employees covered by a collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) already in place on the Act’s effective date will not be subject to the Act until the CBA expires, and even after the CBA’s expiration date, the employer and union may expressly waive the Act’s provisions when the CBA provides comparable time-off benefits.

Starting from April 1, 2014, covered employers with 20 or more employees must provide paid sick leave to each eligible employee. By October 1, 2015, the paid sick leave requirements will extend to employers with 15 or more employees. Employers with employees not entitled to paid sick leave must still afford unpaid sick leave in accordance with the Act.

Read More: New York Employers Face Far-Reaching Employment Law Changes in 2014


  1. The New York Department of Labor’s proposed regulations are available at http://www.labor.ny.gov/legal/laws/pdf/minimum-wage/Art-19-regs.pdf.
  2. N.Y. City Admin. Code ยงยง 20-911 to 20-924.
  3. The Act exempts manufacturing-sector employers that are classified in sections 31-33 of the North American Industry Classification System, such as factories and mills, and certain establishments that manufacture products on site.
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