The New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) provides employees with among the most expansive protections from workplace discrimination of any legislation in the country. In certain respects, the NYCHRL requires plaintiffs to satisfy lower standards to establish claims than do other anti-discrimination laws. The NYCHRL also recognizes more protected characteristics than many other laws and enables prevailing plaintiffs to recover extensive damages. These are among the reasons that employers should take note of a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Rinsky v. Cushman & Wakefield, Inc., 2019 WL 1091046 (1st Cir. Mar. 8, 2019), which illustrates the reach of the NYCHRL beyond the borders of New York City.
The Fair Labor Standards Act and New York Labor Law include exemptions from overtime and minimum wage requirements for employees holding certain executive and administrative positions. In order to qualify for the executive or administrative exemption, an employee must, among other things, earn at least the minimum threshold salary. Under federal law, the current minimum threshold salary is $455 per week ($23,660 per year). However, the minimum threshold salary is higher under New York law and, as of December 31, 2018, is scheduled to rise even higher.
The new minimum thresholds vary depending on the size of the employer and the employee’s work location, as set forth below.
In April, New York governor Andrew Cuomo signed a sweeping budget bill, which included several major amendments to the New York Human Rights Law (NYHRL). One of the most significant aspects of the bill was the mandate that New York employers adopt robust sexual harassment policies as well as provide mandatory anti-sexual harassment training to all employees, not just managers. Specifically, the law requires employers with four (4) or more employees to adopt sexual harassment policies and training consistent with a model policy and model training prepared jointly by the Commissioner of Labor and the New York State Human Rights Division.
That law became effective on October 9, 2018, and New York state has finally released the model materials, an online “Toolkit for Employers”, including a model sexual harassment policy, a model complaint form, and a model interactive training program. All of the state’s model materials are accessible to employers via a website set up by the government.
Westchester County’s salary history ban, signed on Equal Pay Day in April 2018, took effect on July 9, 2018. The law amends the Westchester County Human Rights Law, and makes it unlawful for an employer, including labor organizations and employment agencies or “agents” thereof, to:
- rely on the wage history of a prospective employee from any current or former employer in determining wages; and
- request or require as a condition of being interviewed, as a condition of being considered for an offer of employment, or as a condition of employment, that a prospective employee disclose wage history information.
Buried within a budget bill signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo on April 12, 2018 are some major changes for all New York employers in the area of Sexual Harassment. Part KK of Senate Bill 7507-C makes six changes to New York Law. Some pieces of the law went into effect right away, some are delayed until the following dates: July 11, 2018, October 9, 2018 and January 1, 2019.
Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit resolved a split among the four New York district courts regarding whether a plaintiff can recover cumulative liquidated damages awards under both the Fair Labor Standards Act (federal law) and the New York Labor Law (state law) for the same wage and hour violation. In Chowdhury v. Hamza Express Food Corp., 2016 WL 7131854 (2d Cir. Dec. 7, 2016), the Court held that a plaintiff cannot receive double recovery. The decision will have a significant practical impact on wage and hour litigation.