As New York State employers continue to manage their first year of paid family leave (PFL) benefits available to employees in 2018 (8 weeks maximum), comments and predictions about what the Legislature might do for 2019 have emerged. As expected, we have heard that the disability insurers who pay out the PFL benefits to eligible employees are indicating that the current amount withheld from employees’ pay to cover PFL benefits is insufficient.
This month, Governor Cuomo signed a new anti-harassment law, and it contains provisions for private and public employers related to sexual harassment in the workplace.
Effectively immediately, employees are protected from harassment not only by other employees, but also “non-employees,” which can include vendors, consultants, contractors, and others providing services pursuant to a contract.
As reported recently by the Associated Press, a New York City Council member, perhaps influenced by a recent French law, has proposed legislation to allow some employees the right to ignore after-hours communications from employers. The proposal would apply to NYC employers with 10 or more employees, and would prohibit them from requiring employees to respond to or act on after-hours telephone calls, texts, emails etc. that are not emergencies, or discipline them for failing to do so. It would not bar employers from sending such emails, and employees could respond if they so choose.
A new regulation clarifies how deductions can be made from employee paychecks to fund New York’s Paid Family Leave program.
Until this month, the general understanding was that a maximum of 0.126% of New York State Average Weekly Wage paycheck could be deducted from employees’ weekly wages. That meant any deductions were capped at $1.65 a week.
In another attempt to stem sexual harassment in the workplace, legislation proposed in both the House and the Senate at the end of last month would require publicly traded companies to report information related to harassment or discrimination settlements and complaints in their SEC filings. So far the measure lacks bipartisan support, but this latest proposed legislation is further evidence that workplace harassment and discrimination has lawmakers’ attention and will for a long time to come.
Discrimination on the basis of an employee’s sexual orientation has long been illegal under the New York Human Rights Law, but not under federal Title VII. However, that all changed in February 2018 when the federal Second Circuit Court of Appeals reversed its prior decisions and found that Title VII does bar sexual orientation.
Earlier this month, 56 attorneys general of the United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, Guam, and the Virgin Islands implored Congress in a letter to prohibit mandatory arbitration clauses of workplace sexual harassment claims and allow victims to have their day in court. The letter also frowned upon the secrecy requirements of arbitration clauses, which “disserve the public interest by keeping both the harassment complaints and any settlements confidential.”
The state and federal discrimination laws prohibiting unequal treatment based on protected categories, such as age, race, sex etc., apply only to employees, and thus not to owners, members or partners of a business. However, in several cases across the country involving law firms, this precept has become much more complicated as courts have begun to consider what type of owner or partner a person is before deciding whether he/she should be covered by the broad definition of employee within the discrimination laws.
Recently, we’ve been warning employers that in order to have a legally compliant unpaid internship available, certain specific conditions had to be met. If those conditions were not met, employers ran the risk of facing liability for unpaid wages for someone they classified as an unpaid intern. The factors that have been in place until this month are as follows:
In another pro-business move from the Trump Administration, the United States Department of Labor announced last summer that it would resume issuing opinion letters offering interpretive guidance under the Fair Labor Standards Act, a practice that had been suspended during the Obama administration.
YOUR ASSISTANCE IS NEEDED! Please e-mail your senators to OPPOSE S. 3220 <http://msg.shrm.org/site/R?i=MTjvtqw_LsVHXyHx4E3oZw> because it would significantly restrict the way employers of all sizes compensate their employees.
The U.S. Senate is scheduled to vote on S. 3220 <http://msg.shrm.org/site/R?i=RtT7Sk0m8Jd81Vmze41gYQ> , the so-called "Paycheck Fairness Act (PFA)," during the week of June 4-8. If enacted, the bill would:
* significantly restrict the factors HR professionals use to compensate their employees,
* authorize the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Department of Labor to collect wage information from employers, and
* encourage employees to publicly disclose their colleagues' wages.
Please Take This Action:
Write your U.S. Senators using SHRM's HRVoice program by following these steps:
1. Log onto the SHRM HRVoice Advocacy Action Center by clicking HERE <http://msg.shrm.org/site/R?i=QDYTTmdd8f2fWjP-HZhnFg>
2. Personalize your message with your own story
3. Include your home mailing address.
HR professionals who manage compensation use their professional judgment to consider a number of legitimate factors in creating fair and equitable compensation systems. These include experience, profitability, merit, productivity, prior salary history and location. But the PFA would allow the Federal government to second-guess employer pay practices in three primary ways. The PFA would:
1. Restrict employer flexibility in pay decisions – The PFA would effectively prohibit employers from using many legitimate factors to compensate their employees, including professional experience, education, training, employer need, local labor market rates, hazard pay, shift differentials and the profitability of the organization. The PFA would permit employers to base pay decisions only on production, merit and seniority.
2. Require collection of employer wage data – The PFA would authorize the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Department of Labor to collect compensation data from compensation managers.
3. Reduce employee privacy – The PFA would effectively encourage employees to discuss or publicize their co-workers' wages by preventing employer retaliation against an individual who publicly discloses the wages of other employees.
Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) introduced S. 3220, the Paycheck Fairness Act, on May 22, 2012. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, but it has not been the subject of a hearing or markup during the current Congress. The Senate plans to vote on S. 3220 during the week of June 4-8.
SHRM and its membership are committed to preventing and resolving any form of workplace discrimination, including pay disparities between women and men. SHRM strongly supports the two federal laws that already protect employees from gender-based pay inequity: (1) Title VII of Civil Rights Act of 1964 and (2) the Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA). The proposed Paycheck Fairness Act would amend the Equal Pay Act, which is part of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.
SHRM believes that compensation programs should be designed to ensure fair treatment of employees, but should be determined by the market and employer needs, not by the government. Instead, SHRM encourages organizations of all sizes to regularly perform compensation or job evaluation audits to ensure such systems do not discriminate based on gender in order to comply with current federal law.
SHRM believes the Paycheck Fairness Act, however well-intentioned, would be an unnecessary expansion of the Equal Pay Act. By significantly restricting the factors used in setting compensation, the Paycheck Fairness Act would threaten the tools that HR professionals use to reward and retain their employees. The bill could lead to employers cutting back on incentive pay programs, because of the pay disparities between employees that would naturally result. The bill would also have a negative impact on employee privacy by encouraging employees to publicize their colleagues' wages.
Should you have any questions regarding the Paycheck Fairness Act, please contact Michael Layman, SHRM's Government Relations Senior Associate, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you encounter any problems with the advocacy site, please contact David Lusk, SHRM's Senior Associate, Member Advocacy, at 703-535-6158.