What Employees Need To Know About How New York Labor Laws Are Changing In 2023
Between new COVID-19 variants, nationwide strikes in major industries, rolling layoffs, and the acceleration of generative AI-induced wonder (or panic) — the past year has brought a number of changes and challenges to workers across the U.S.
While these events garnered headlines, though, New York workplaces saw some important changes closer to home in 2023.
Over the past calendar year, a handful of new labor laws and updated policies have officially gone into effect across the state, bringing with them new regulations and benefits for employees and companies alike.
This blog post will shed some light on the new and expanded workplace regulations that went into effect in 2023.
We’ll walk through these new statewide rules, explain what they mean for workers, and what to do if your employer won’t comply with these or other workplace regulations.
If you have questions, please contact our employment attorneys online or call (866) 442-6755.
5 Changes to New York Labor Laws Employees Should Watch Out For
1. Expanded Protections for Workplace Whistleblowers
Date effective: January 2022
Although New York state’s whistleblower laws were revised back in 2022, these changes are still new enough — and important enough — for employees not to want to overlook.
Under New York law, it’s illegal for companies to punish employees who reported unlawful activity (“blew the whistle”) happening in the workplace.
In the past, however, an employee was only offered legal protection from an employer’s retaliation if 1) they were reporting an actual violation of an existing law, and 2) if this legal violation posed a “substantial and specific danger” to the public.
But under the new law adopted in 2022, employee whistleblowers don’t have to prove that an actual law has been broken in order to be protected from retaliation.
Instead, the new law makes it illegal for companies to retaliate against any whistleblower who reports an activity that “the employee reasonably believes is in violation of a law, rule or regulation or that the employee reasonably believes poses a substantial and specific danger to the public health or safety.”
Additionally, workers considering blowing the whistle on illicit activities now also have twice the amount of time to report as before — up to two years after the illegal action.
The revised law also extends these protections against employer retaliation to former employees and independent contractors, who normally don’t enjoy the same benefits and protections as full employees.
Finally, whistleblowers who are victims of retaliation can now receive greater amounts of recovery if they sue — including front pay, punitive damages, and civil penalties of up to $10,000 in a lawsuit.
2. Extended paid leave for COVID-19 vaccinations
Date effective: July 2022 – December 31, 2023
This temporary policy, originally approved by former Governor Cuomo in March 2021, was extended by state leaders as COVID-19 infection rates remained high.
Put simply, employees in New York are entitled to a brief paid leave of absence from work in order to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Employers must allow workers “a sufficient period of time” — capped at four hours — for each COVID-19 vaccine they receive.
Whether it’s their first jab or subsequent booster shots. This leave time should be paid at your regular rate of pay. It also can’t be counted against any other leave that you’re entitled to, like New York Paid Sick Leave.
3. Worker notification of electronic monitoring
Date effective: May 2022
According to a new privacy law, any New York business that monitors worker communications must now inform their employees about it before hiring.
Information about the monitoring has to be available in written form, both provided to individual employees and posted in an accessible area in the workplace.
It should make it clear that monitoring can include:
- Any and all telephone conversations or transmissions, electronic mail or transmissions, or internet access or usage by an employee by any electronic device or system, including but not limited to the use of a computer, telephone, wire, radio or electromagnetic, photoelectronic or photo-optical systems may be subject to monitoring at any and all times and by any lawful means.
Companies also have to collect written or electronic acknowledgement from each employee, affirming that they’ve been told that their communications are being monitored.
If they don’t, they can be subject to civil penalties of up to $3,000 for failing to properly keep employees informed.
4. Protection for paid absences from work
Date effective: February 2023
State and federal law has long-established that employees in New York are legally entitled to take time away from work due to certain health conditions and life events: for instance, in case of illness, due to disability, a pregnancy, or caregiving obligations.
Other types of work absences are less well known, but legally protected and available for New York employees, including jury duty leave, voting leave, blood donor leave, and leave to seek legal or medical assistance related to domestic violence.
Now, a new law cracks down on New York employers who penalize employees from exercising their legal right to paid leave from work.
The law states employers who discipline workers in any way for using their legally protected leave time can be charged with committing illegal retaliation.
The new bill is specifically aimed at curbing “no fault” attendance policies, which assign demerits to workers each time they are late or absent from work — regardless of reason.
5. Updates to paid family leave
Date effective: January 2023
Revision to New York’s Paid Family Leave (PFL) law has expanded the situations when you can take time away from work to care for relatives suffering from serious health conditions.
According to the updated law, siblings — biological, adopted, step siblings, or half-siblings — are now counted among the types of close family members that an employee can access Paid Family Leave to care for.
The other family members covered under New York’s PFL law are children, parents, grandparents, grandchildren, spouses, and domestic partners.
Importantly, while these family members are seen as “close” in terms of relationship, they don’t have to live close by for you to be eligible to take PFL: even if your qualifying family members live outside of New York state, you’re still able to take leave to help with their care.
6. Pay transparency in New York state
Date effective: September 2023
At the end of 2022, lawmakers in New York City instituted a new policy requiring all employers with four or more employees to include a salary range in any open job advertisement, whether published internally or publicly.
Not long after this law went into effect in NYC, Governor Kathy Hochul signed a similar bill enforcing pay transparency across New York state.
What does this mean? All job postings must include an estimated pay range for a given position, whether or not compensation is paid hourly or as a salary.
If the position is commission based, that should also be stated clearly in the job description. Potential benefits and/or bonus pay doesn’t necessarily have to be stated, though.
Companies that don’t comply with this effort to promote pay transparency can be subject to fines, as well as potential monetary damages to employees who are adversely affected by the violation.
My Employer Isn’t Complying With These Policies Or Is Violating Another Law. What Should I Do?
It can be difficult for any individual worker to stay informed about changes in the world of employment law. It’s your employer’s job to make sure that they’re keeping up with all the rules and regulations — state, federal, and local — that ensure that workplaces are safe and fair.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. Sometimes when employers violate the law, it’s because of accidental oversight — other times, though, it’s for more malicious reasons.
When to Get in Contact With an Employment Lawyer
That’s why if you’re concerned about legal misconduct at your job, it’s a good idea to consult with an employment lawyer.
An experienced employment attorney in New York who’s familiar with federal, New York state, and local labor laws is best positioned to evaluate potential workplace wrongdoing.
They can assess your situation and advise you on how to address your dispute, whether or not unlawful activity is happening.
If your rights have been violated, an attorney can help you understand your options and guide you through the process of seeking legal restitution.
Ottinger Employment Lawyers has been helping New York workers win recovery for workplace wrongdoing for over 20 years.
Our team of lawyers can help you understand your legal options and support you in exercising your right to get restitution for an employer’s bad behavior.
If you work in New York and are concerned that your rights have been violated at work, contact our office today to talk to an attorney about your case.