While 2023 was a busy year for workers as the year of the strike, it appears New York State and New York City legislatures also had their schedules full, as they introduced an array of employment laws and updates. Read on to learn about the most notable changes.
New York State Law Updates
New Pay Transparency Law
Employers in New York state who have four or more employees now must include a salary or a salary range in job posts. The pay range cannot be left open-ended, such as “up to 50k annually.” They also are required to disclose whether the job is paid based on commission. This pay transparency law, the FARE Grant, became effective in September 2023.
This law is meant to promote fairness for workers (like us at Workplace Fairness!) by providing them with crucial job information up front. The days of employers hiding wage amounts until job seekers ask them are over.
The NY Department of Labor has fact sheets and answers to frequently asked questions online here.
Employee IP Protections
Senate Bill S5640 added Section 203-f to the New York Labor Law in mid-September to broaden intellectual property (IP) protections for employees. IP refers to patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets. The new law limits employee assignment of invention clauses, prohibiting employers from requiring workers to assign their inventions that were created on personal time with personal resources.
Most employers were likely complying with this restriction before it became law, though they should review their employment agreements to be sure that they are now.
Greater Protections for Freelance Workers
New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed the ”Freelance Isn’t Free” Act into law in November. The Act — which will take effect on May 20, 2024 — expands protections for freelance workers and builds on a 2016 NYC law with the same name.
Most importantly, the Act gives freelancers rights to a written contract and to full and timely pay. It also protects them from retaliation and discrimination based on exercising these rights. The Act applies to freelancers who are paid $800 or more for their services.
A model contract is available on the Department of Labor website for freelancers to use.
The Act is enforceable by either a freelance worker bringing a private lawsuit or by the Attorney General bringing suit on their behalf.
Workplace Fairness explains laws regarding gig workers, including freelance workers, here.
Social Media Protections for Workers
Senate Bill S02518A added Section 201-I to the New York Labor Law, prohibiting New York employers from asking or requiring job applicants or employees to share their login information for social media and other personal accounts. This is meant to protect workers’ privacy. However, the law does not apply to accounts that are used in whole or in part for business purposes. It also does not bar employers from accessing devices that they pay for, though they still may not access an employee’s personal accounts on those devices.
Learn more about workers’ privacy rights here.
Wage Theft as Criminal Larceny
The New York Penal Law was amended to include wage theft as a type of criminal larceny, punishable by fines or imprisonment. Employers who fail to pay promised wages and overtime may be guilty of a misdemeanor. This law supplements NY Labor Law Sections 198-a and 662, other criminal wage theft statutes.
Visit our pages on unpaid wages to learn about workers’ rights.
Near-Ban on Captive Audience Speeches
New York Labor Law Section 201-d was amended to prohibit employers from requiring employees to attend employer-sponsored meetings that are primarily held for an employer to express their religious or political beliefs or concerns. Employers also cannot retaliate against employees for refusing to attend such meetings. However, casual conversations and communications necessary to perform job functions are permissible even if they relate to religion or politics.
Unemployment Insurance Notice Requirements
Senate Bill S4878A amended New York Labor Law Section 590, which became effective in November. It requires New York employers to provide written notice of the right to file for unemployment benefits to all employees who are terminated or whose work hours were reduced to the point that they qualify for unemployment benefits. The notice must meet specific requirements. The New York Department of Labor shared an example notice online that employers may use.
Ban on Non-Competes Vetoed
A New York bill that was proposed to ban most non-compete agreements garnered a lot of media attention in 2023. However, Governor Hochul vetoed it in December. She urged instead for legislation that protects middle and lower-class workers while considering the potential benefits of non-competes for companies that pay high wages.
Visit Workplace Fairness’ page on non-compete agreements to learn more about them and how they are often restricted.
New York City Law Updates
Rules on AI Decision Tools in the Workplace
The New York City Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) adopted final rules that regulate the use of Automated Employment Decision Tools (AEDTs). AEDTs include AI employers may use in selecting new employees, giving promotions, and evaluating workers’ performance. The rules address bias concerns, requiring the tools to be audited to prevent discrimination. Part of the changes, Local Law 144 requires the tools be audited. This is meant to address concerns about bias and discrimination by AI.
Visit the Workplace Fairness Q&A to learn about AI in the workplace and hiring process.
Sick and Safe Time Regulations
New York City heavily amended its Earned Safe and Sick Time Act (ESSTA). There are detailed changes to provisions regarding employee eligibility, notice requirements, recordkeeping, and more. Learn more about the updates here.
“Workers’ Bill of Rights” Notice
Beginning in July of 2024, New York City employers will be required to provide all employees with specific notices of their legal rights. This stems from a bill known as the “Workers’ Bill of Rights” that was passed by the New York City Council in 2013. It became law in December. The exact notice that employers must distribute has not yet been published but will be created by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs and Worker Protection (DCWP) along with several other commissions.
Protections for Height and Weight Discrimination
In New York City, height and weight are now protected characteristics that cannot be the basis for discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations. Local Law 061 amended the NYC Human Rights Law to this effect. This sets the city apart from federal law and many state laws, which almost never provide bases for height and weight to be discriminated against. However, there are exceptions that would still permit discriminating against a person’s height or weight, including when it may prevent them from performing their necessary job functions.
Visit the Workplace Fairness website for more information on employment discrimination.
This blog was contributed directly to Workplace Fairness. It is published with permission.
About the Author: Madeline Messa is Workplace Fairness’ legal content coordinator. She graduated from Syracuse Law in December of 2023.