New York Issues a Flurry of Employee Friendly Legislation
Lactation Requirements (NY City)
New York City passed two laws expanding nursing mother rights. Effective March 18, 2019, employers will be subject to additional specific requirements regarding the lactation room that must be made available to nursing mothers. New York State law already requires that the lactation room be private, well-lit, and contain at least a chair and small table, desk, counter, or another flat surface. The City law requires additional amenities including an electrical outlet, access to running water nearby, refrigerator suitable for breast milk storage in close proximity to the employee’s work area.
New York City employers are also required to implement by March 18, 2019 a written lactation room policy and provide the policy to all employees upon hiring. The policy must include a statement that employees have the right to request a lactation room, and identify a process by which employees may make such requests. “Cooperative Dialogue” Regarding Accommodations (NY City)
Effective October 15, 2018 , New York City amended its Human Right Law to require covered employers to engage in a “cooperative dialogue” with individuals who may be entitled to a reasonable accommodation related to religious beliefs, disability, pregnancy, childbirth or a related medical condition, or because the employee was a victim of domestic violence, sex offenses or stalking. Covered employers must follow certain procedures when they receive a request for an accommodation, or when they have a notice that an individual needs an accommodation. The procedures require employers to: (1) engage, in good faith, in written and verbal dialogue to discuss an employee’s accommodation needs; (2) continue the good faith discussion until the request for accommodation is either granted or denied; (3) make a final written determination as to whether any accommodation has been granted or denied; and (4) provide a copy of the written determination to the employee who made the accommodation request. Related to part (1) above, if the employer cannot satisfy the request for accommodation, they must discuss the difficulties that the request poses on the employer and suggest alternatives that may address the accommodation needs. Without satisfying the requirements of a “cooperative dialogue” the employers is prohibited from determining that no reasonable accommodation exists that would enable the employee to perform his or her essential functions of their job. The “cooperative dialogue” is addressed in the 2018 New York City document titled “Legal Enforcement Guidance Discrimination on the Basis of Disability.”
Safe and Sick Time Act (NY City)
In 2018 “safe time” was added to the City’s sick time law. “Safe time” is available to employees if they or their family members have been victims of a family offense matter, sexual offense, stalking, or human trafficking, and need time off from work for certain related reasons. New York City issued revised rules and regulations that require written safe and sick time policies distributed to each employee when they are hired, within 14 days of a policy change taking effect, and upon request by employees. The policy must include a description of the law’s confidentiality requirements. Westchester County also passed its own sick time laws, which will take effect on March 3, 2019.
Mandatory Sexual Harassment Prevention Policies and Training (NY State and City)
Effective October 9, 2018, the law requires that every NY State employer, regardless of size and including domestic and household employees) was required to adopt a sexual harassment prevention policy that meets specific requirements. Both the City and the State require anti-sexual harassment training be conducted annually to all employees, as well as to new hires soon after hiring. The City law covers City employers with 15 or more employees and goes into effect on April 1, 2019. All training programs must cover the requirements of the City and the State. The City issued FAQs in November 2018 and is developing an online training that employers can use to meet the training requirements.
Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (NY City and State)
On January 25, 2019, the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), amending NY State Law, to expressly include “gender identify or expression” as a protected category. GENDA will become effective on February 24, 2019. Even though discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression is already prohibited under the NY City Human Rights Law, the City updated its protections to reflect broader and more inclusive definitions of “gender” and “sexual orientation.” For further guidance, refer to the City’s “Legal Enforcement Guidance on Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity or Expression.” Paid Family Leave Law (NY State)
The State issued updated guidance for 2019 under the NY State Paid Family Leave Benefits Leave Law (PFLBL). Eligible employees can now take up to 10 weeks of PFLBL leave in 2019 with a maximum weekly benefit of $746.41. Also, effective on February 3, 2019, the definition of “serious health condition” has been amended to clarify that it includes “transplantation preparation and recovery from surgery to organ or tissue donation.”
Salary History Ban Laws (NY Counties)
Suffolk County followed suit with Albany County (late 2017) and Westchester County (July 9, 2018) by passing its own salary history ban that will go in effect on June 30, 2019.