The Labor and Employment Law Landscape

By Anastasia Semel

Anastasia Semel

Several significant changes to state and federal labor and employment laws are taking effect this year. Employers need to be aware of these laws in order to adjust employment policies and procedures accordingly. Understanding and complying with these laws is essential. Below is a nonexhaustive list of laws enacted to date:

1. Increases In Minimum Wage and Salary Thresholds

Effective Dec. 31, 2019, the minimum wage is $11.80 for employees in areas of New York state, other than New York City, Nassau, Suffolk or Westchester counties. Additionally, New York state’s Minimum Wage Act and applicable regulations raised the minimum salary threshold to $46,020.00 annually ($885.00 weekly) for exempt executive and administrative employees in areas other than New York City, Nassau, Suffolk or Westchester counties. 

New York state does not have its own minimum salary threshold for exempting professional employees; however, the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and applicable regulations increased its threshold amount to $35,568.00 annually ($684.00 weekly). Employers should confirm that their wage rates and exemption classifications are in compliance with federal and state laws.

2. Salary History Ban

Effective Jan. 6, 2020, New York Labor Law Section 194-a bans employers from inquiring about or relying on salary history, including compensation and benefits, when making employment decisions. More specifically, the law bans employers from asking job applicants and current employees about their salary history and relying on salary history as a factor in deciding whether to hire or how much to pay an applicant or employee. Employers cannot (1) require applicants or employees to reveal salary history as a condition of consideration for a position; (2) request salary history information from an applicant’s or employee’s former employer; or (3) refuse to interview, hire, promote, or otherwise employ or retaliate in any other way against an applicant or employee who exercises the right not to reveal salary history.

If an applicant or employee voluntarily discloses his or her salary history, the employer may take it into consideration. Additionally, if the applicant or employee volunteers his or her salary history information in order to negotiate higher pay when an offer of compensation is made, the employer may take steps to confirm the accuracy of that information.

Employers should train human resources personnel, and anyone involved in the hiring process, on permissible and prohibited questions and actions under the new law.

3. Employee Rights Regarding Reproductive Health Decisions

Effective Nov. 8, 2019, New York Labor Law Section 203-e prohibits employers from (1) accessing an employee’s personal information regarding the employee’s (or dependent’s) reproductive health decisions without prior informed, affirmative written consent; (2) discriminating or taking any retaliatory personnel action against an employee with regard to compensation or the terms, conditions or privileges of employment because of or based on the employee’s (or dependent’s) reproductive health decisions; and (3) requiring an employee to sign a waiver or other document that purports to deny the employee the right to make their own reproductive healthcare decisions.

The law permits employees to bring a civil action in any court of competent jurisdiction and seek various legal and equitable remedies, and it also provides for an additional award of civil penalties against any employer who retaliates against an employee for bringing a complaint.

4. Expanded Worker Protection Under the New York State Human Rights Law

Several changes to the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL) take effect in 2020.

Nondisclosure agreements (NDA) as part of employment contracts entered on or after Jan. 1, 2020 must include an explicit policy that allows the employee or potential employee to speak with “Law enforcement, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the state Division of Human Rights, a local commission on human rights or an attorney retained by the employee or potential employee.” Without this language, NDAs are void and unenforceable to the extent that they prohibit disclosing factual information regarding any future claims of discrimination.

Effective Feb. 8, 2020, employers of any size, including those with just one employee, are subject to the NYSHRL.

Finally, effective Aug. 12, 2020, the statute of limitations for reporting claims of sexual harassment to the state Division of Human Rights will be extended to three years.

Employers should ensure they are in compliance with these laws and consult legal counsel if they have specific labor and employment law questions or concerns.

Anastasia Semel is an associate at CCB Law, a boutique law firm focused on providing counsel to physicians and healthcare professionals. She can be reached at 315-477-6232 or