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FMLA “Marriage Penalty” May be Going Away

Friday, November 15, 2019

A new Senate bill proposes removing the restriction on married co-workers’ ability to take time off to care for newborn or adopted children, parents, or military family members under the FMLA.  The FMLA provides job protected, unpaid leave for employees for certain purposes, such as the birth or adoption of a child, or to care for a sick family member.   Employees may take up to 12 weeks of leave during a one-year period.  Currently however, there is statutory language that only allows spouses to take a total of 12 combined weeks of leave.

Federal DOL Issues Proposed Rule Allowing Inclusion of Bonus Pay in Overtime Calculation for Fluctuating Workweek Half-Time Overtime Employees

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The fluctuating workweek half-time overtime option has been available for many years under federal law as a way for employers to reduce their overtime costs for employees who work different hours each week. The option requires that the employee be paid a fixed minimum amount weekly regardless of the number of hours worked. Then, if that number of worked exceeds 40, the employer may pay overtime on a half-time of the regular rate of pay basis (determined each week overtime is worked).

NY’s New Law Affecting Domestic Violence Victims Takes Effect in November

Friday, October 25, 2019

NY passed a new law this year that applies to employees that are victims of domestic violence.  This law requires employers to provide victims reasonable time off from work to seek medical attention for himself or herself for the injuries caused by domestic violence, to receive services from a domestic violence shelter or program or a rape crisis center, to obtain psychological counseling, to participate in safety planning or other activities to increase the victim’s safety in the future, to receive legal services, assist in the prosecution of the perpetrator, or to appear in court in rela

U.S. Supreme Court Argument on 10/8/19 Regarding LGBTQ Discrimination Coverage Under Title VII

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Observers noted a sharp divide among the United States Supreme Court Justices during oral argument of three cases before them on October 8, 2019. At issue before the Court was whether the prohibition against discrimination on the basis of “sex” in federal Title VII includes protection from discrimination for the LGBTQ community.

New Salary Levels for Federal Overtime Exemption Announced

Monday, September 30, 2019

The federal government has announced the new salary requirements for employees to be exempt from overtime pay under federal law.  The new salary threshold is $35,568 annually or $684 weekly.

Are Changes to Gig Worker Classifications Coming?

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Historically, gig workers (think Uber drivers, InstaCart, Doordash) have been classified as independent contractors, allowing companies to avoid having to pay benefits or minimum wage and overtime.  This may change sooner than you think.  Just last week, California got one step closer to making it harder for companies to classify these individuals as independent contractors.  While the bill still must be signed into law, experts believe that this is inevitable.  New York Gov.

Federal DOL Set to Publish a Proposed Rule Regarding Fluctuating Workweek Pay

Friday, September 06, 2019

Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, employers who agree with employees who work a fluctuating number of hours each week to pay them a base salary regardless of the number of hours worked, are then able to pay those employees half-time for their overtime hours.  This somewhat unknown, and not often used, structure generally saves employers money and gives employees the certainty of the salary during weeks working less than 40 hours.

PFL 2020 Rates Announced

Friday, September 06, 2019

The New York State Department of Financial Services (“DFS”) Superintendent revealed the new Paid Family Leave (“PFL”) benefit and employee contribution rates on Friday August 30. By law, those on PFL will receive up to 60% of the New York State average weekly wage (which the DFS set at $1,401.17 for 2020), for the up-to-10 weeks of PFL taken during the year. Accordingly, most employees who take PFL in 2020 will receive $840.70 per week, up about $100 from 2019, and it will be interesting to see if more employees seek to take it.

Expanded NY Anti-Harassment Legislation Has Become Law

Friday, August 30, 2019

On June 25, we wrote about new anti-harassment legislation that we expected Governor Cuomo to sign into law.  On August 12, he did, in fact, sign that legislation and expanded the definition of what is considered legally actionable harassment in the workplace.  The traditional standard that harassment must be “severe and pervasive” will no longer apply.  Now, a complainant must show that the conduct in question rises above the level of “petty slights and trivial inconveniences.” 

 

Additional changes are:

NY Passes New Discrimination Laws

Friday, August 23, 2019

Continuing with its’ busy employment legislation season, New York has amended the Human Rights Law to prohibit discrimination based on religious attire, clothing and facial hair.  The law becomes effective on October 8, 2019.   The law already prohibited employers from treating applicants or employees differently because of their religion, but the amendment makes clear that the definition of religion includes bias against any employee’s religious clothing, facial hair or attire.

Governmental Affairs
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Shared Work is a voluntary program that provides employers facing a temporary decline in business with an alternative to layoffs. Rather than laying off a percentage of the work force to cut costs, an employer can reduce the hours and wages of all or a particular group of employees. The employees whose hours and wages are reduced can receive partial unemployment insurance benefits to supplement their lost wages.

For example, an employee earning $400 per week might receive an unemployment benefit rate of $200, if totally unemployed. Under the Shared Work Program, if his wages and hours are reduced 20%, he would receive $320 per week in wages from his employer (20% of $400 equals an $80 reduction), and $40 in Shared Work Benefits (20% of $200). In other words, the employee would receive a total of $360.00 in wages and Shared Work benefits for each week of the plan.

The Shared Work Program helps employers avoid some of the burdens that accompany a layoff. If employees are retained during a temporary slowdown, employers can quickly gear up when business conditions improve. Employers are then spared the expense of recruiting, hiring, and training new employees, and employees are spared the hardships of full unemployment.


HOW IT WORKS

To participate in the Shared Work Program, an interested employer designs a Shared Work plan and completes and submits a Shared Work Plan Application (Form SW-2.1) and a Shared Work Plan Participant Listing (Form SW-2.2) to the Unemployment Insurance Division in Albany. The plan can cover the employer's total work force, a particular shift or shifts, or a work unit or units. Applications should be submitted at least two weeks but not more than four weeks prior to the proposed effective date.

Once the plan is approved, the employer receives a supply of Shared Work Plan Application for Benefits forms (Form SW 330) and a supply of bi-weekly Shared Work Continued Claim forms (Form SW 4). The affected workers complete the application forms, and the employer returns the completed forms to the Department's Shared Work Unit in Albany for processing. Those workers who qualify for unemployment insurance will receive both their reduced wages and Shared Work benefits.

Weekly or bi-weekly during the life of the plan, the employer distributes the claim certification forms (Form SW 4) to the participating employees. After the employee portion is filled out, the employer completes the certifications and sends them to the Shared Work Unit in Albany. The Shared Work benefits will be electronically transferred to each participant's Direct Payment Card account within 48-72 hours of processing the certifications.

The Shared Work benefit rate will be the employee’s regular weekly benefit rate multiplied by the same percentage as the employee’s weekly hours and wages are reduced.


THE PLAN REQUIREMENTS

Any New York employer who has five or more full-time employees and who with any predecessor has been liable for unemployment insurance purposes for at least four completed calendar quarters may apply to participate in the Shared Work Program. The employer's plan must meet the following basic requirements:

The employees’ hours and wages must be reduced at least 20% but not more than 60%.
Only full-time employees who normally work between 35 and 40 hours per week are eligible to participate.
The employees' fringe benefits cannot be reduced or eliminated.
The plan cannot exceed 53 weeks.
The employer cannot hire additional full-time or part-time employees for the work group covered by the plan.
If the employees are covered by a collective bargaining agreement, the collective bargaining agent must approve the Shared Work plan.
The plan must be in lieu of a layoff of an equivalent percentage of employees.


BENEFIT ELIGIBILITY

Employees who would normally be eligible to receive regular unemployment insurance benefits in New York State are eligible to participate in the Shared Work Program.

The employee must serve a waiting week before receiving Shared Work benefit payments unless a waiting period has already been served on an existing claim.
The Shared Work weekly amount will be the employee’s weekly unemployment benefit rate multiplied by the percentage that the employee’s hours and wages are reduced under the Shared Work plan.
Because Shared Work is an alternative to layoffs, a plan can not result in benefits paid exceeding what benefits would have been paid if a total layoff occurred. Although a Shared Work plan may be approved for up to 53 weeks, only 20 weeks of benefits can be paid in a benefit year. Each plan will be examined individually to determine the amount of Shared Work benefits available.
During a benefit year an employee may receive a maximum of 20 weeks of Shared Work benefits. However, an employee may not receive more in Shared Work benefits combined with regular unemployment insurance benefits in a benefit year than the person could have received under the regular unemployment insurance program alone (26 x regular benefit rate).
The employee must be fully available for work for the Shared Work employer, but is not required to look for other work.
Any work with a different employer or self-employment will reduce the amount of Shared Work benefits for which an employee is eligible.
Employees are not eligible for Shared Work benefits in any week in which they receive supplemental unemployment compensation benefits (SUB Pay).


QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Q.When will the Shared Work plan begin?

A. On the date specified on the employer's application form or the first Monday following our approval of the plan, whichever date is later. Applications should not be submitted more than one month prior to the proposed effective date. A Shared Work plan may not be approved retroactively. Therefore, it is important that applications be submitted at least two weeks before the desired starting date of the plan.


Q.Once a Shared Work plan has been approved, can it be changed?

A. Yes. An employer may change the percentage that the employees' hours are reduced or return the employees to a full-time work schedule for a week or more and then continue the plan. An employer may also delete work units from the plan. However, if an employer wants to add work units to an existing plan, the employer must submit a modified application for approval.


Q.Can an employer lay off some workers who were originally in the plan and still keep the remainder in the plan?

A. Yes. Shared Work would still be preventing the layoffs of the remaining employees, which is the program's intent. An alternative would be for the employer to increase the percentage that the employees' hours and wages are reduced to avoid any layoffs.


Q.Once the Shared Work plan is in effect, can an employer hire a replacement for an employee who leaves to work for another employer?

A. Yes. The law only prohibits the employer from hiring additional full-time or part-time employees to work in an affected unit. An employer can hire replacements for employees who leave his employ while the plan is in effect.


Q.If an employer chooses Shared Work, must the employer use it for his entire business or company?

A. No, an employer can use Shared Work in one or more departments, shifts, or units. The plan gives an employer the flexibility to choose the areas involved. However, reductions in hours and wages must be applied equally to all of the employees in a participating unit or department. However, the hours and wages of employees of different departments or units may be reduced by different percentages if specified in the plan.


Q.Can a Shared Work plan include a unit consisting of one employee?

A. In order to share the work there generally must be more than one person in the work unit. The Shared Work Program is not intended to subsidize part-time employment. An employer submitting an application including a unit consisting of one person should include an explanation of the circumstances, for example, whether the individual is affected because another unit is being reduced, or, if he is the only individual in the plan, how work is being shared.


Q.Can employees who normally work overtime receive Shared Work benefits for a reduction in their overtime hours?

A. No. Shared Work benefits can only be paid for wages lost because of a reduction in the employee's normal, full-time regular hours. The Shared Work law defines full-time hours as at least 35 but not more than 40 hours per week.


Q.What effect will Shared Work benefits have on an employer's unemployment insurance tax rate?

A. Shared Work benefits will be charged against the employer's experience rating account. Whether these charges will be the same as would be charged after a layoff will depend on each employer's specific situation. If you have a question concerning how Shared Work could impact your tax rate, call 518-457-5807.


Q.Does the employer need to specify which employees will be included in the Shared Work program?

A. Yes. The employer's plan must include the names and social security account numbers of all participating employees and their normal full-time hours per week.


Q.Is an employer required to file reports while the Shared Work plan is in effect?

A. Yes. It is necessary for the employer to complete part of each employee's bi-weekly Shared Work continued claim form. This is to make sure that each employee is paid the proper Shared Work benefit amount.


Q.Can employees receive Shared Work benefits if their hours and wages are reduced less than 20% or more than 60%?

A. No. However, the employees may be eligible to receive partial benefits under the regular unemployment insurance program.


Q.If the employer's Shared Work plan expires but the employees are still working on a reduced work schedule, can the employees continue to receive Shared Work benefits?

A. No. Shared Work benefits are only payable while the employer's plan is in effect. Arrangements should be made prior to the plan expiration date to either extend the existing plan or apply for a new plan in order to prevent interruption of payments.


Q. Are Shared Work benefits issued via debit cards?

A. Yes, shared work participants will receive a packet from Chase Bank with their Direct Payment Card, instructions for activating the card and selecting a Personal Identification Number (PIN), and general information about using the card. Click here for additional information on the Direct Payment Card.


The Shared Work Program is flexible. It can be customized to accommodate a variety of work situations. It saves money. It saves jobs.

Click here for additional information or to obtain a Shared Work plan application.
Or call: (518) 457-5807
Or write to:

State of New York
DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
Unemployment Insurance Division
Liability and Determination Section
State Office Building Campus
Albany, N.Y. 12240 

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