EMPLOYERS: “TOP 10” CHECKLIST FOR 2020

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Many employment law changes are happening in 2020 and we want to make sure you are prepared.  As you already know if you have been following our Employment Law Alerts, 2019 has been a very busy year in the employment arena with many changes going into effect in the coming weeks. NFC wants to make sure your business is prepared to hit the ground running in 2020. Hit the ground running with the following “Top 10” checklist:

#1: ENSURE WAGES ARE MEETING NEW THRESHOLDS
*NEW MINIMUM WAGE – New York and New Jersey employers both face minimum wage hikes in the next few weeks.
  • New York: As of December 31, 2019, minimum wage increases to $15/hour for all New York City employers, $13/hour for Long Island and Westchester, and $11.80 for the rest of the State.
  • New Jersey: As of January 1, 2020, New Jersey minimum wage will be $11/hour.
  • *NEW SALARY THRESHOLDS FOR EXEMPT EMPLOYEES – The New York and United States Departments of Labor have both issued new guidelines regarding the salary threshold for overtime exemptions subject to duties tests.
    New York : As of December 31, 2019, the annual threshold for overtime exemption will increase to $58,500 annually ($1,125/weekly) for New York City employees; $50,700 annually ($975/weekly) in Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester Counties; and $46,020 annually ($885/weekly) for the remainder of the State.
    Federal : As of January 1, 2020, employees must earn $684/week or $35,568/year ($107,432/year for highly compensated employees) to be exempt from federal overtime laws. Employers in New York must follow the higher New York thresholds.

[CLICK HERE for more on the U.S. Department of Labor’s Overtime Exemption Rule]

* PAY EQUITY – With the passage of new pay equity laws, employers are encouraged to work with counsel to conduct a privileged pay equity audit early in 2020.

[CLICK HERE for more on new equal pay requirements]

 

#2: STOP INQUIRING ABOUT WAGE AND SALARY HISTORY

A ban on asking applicants (and, in some cases, current employees) for wage and salary history goes into effect in 2020 in both New York (January 6) and New Jersey (January 25). Make sure to review employment applications for unlawful questions and train employees involved in the hiring process to avoid running afoul of these new laws.

 

#3: BE AWARE OF MAJOR CHANGES IN NEW YORK HARASSMENT LAW
While the majority of New York’s watershed legislation on workplace harassment went into effect this Fall, additional provisions are scheduled to take effect in 2020. Starting January 1, 2020, new limitations will apply to confidentiality provisions in New York contracts and, as of February 8, 2020, the New York Human Rights Law applies to even the smallest of employers.

 

#4: REVIEW YOUR CLASSIFICATION OF WORKERS AS INDEPENDENT CONTRACTORS
For New Jersey employers, in particular, employee misclassification is a hot button issue. The Governor’s Task Force issued recommendations this year and several bills are being considered that could impact how employers classify workers. If you are currently using or contemplating using independent contractors, it is advisable to reach out to counsel.

 

#5: EVALUATE ARBITRATION AGREEMENTS
Whether you already use arbitration agreements or want to start, check with counsel to make sure any agreement is in line with recent developments in the law. For example, courts this year determined that agreements must clearly express intent to avoid class arbitration and suggested that employees must confirm agreement to an electronically-distributed arbitration policy (not just acknowledge receipt).

 

#6: DESIGNATE FMLA LEAVE
Courts made clear in 2019 that employers must designate leave as “FMLA” as soon as an FMLA-qualifying reason for leave is communicated. And remember that FMLA runs concurrently with any paid leave.

 

#7: WATCH FOR TRANSPORTATION FRINGE BENEFIT
In early 2020, employees with 20+ employees are going to be required to offer pre-tax programs for transportation expenses. We are keeping an eye out for regulations setting out the specifics for such programs and will keep you informed once they are released.

 

#8: REVISIT YOUR DRUG TESTING POLICIES
New York City and New Jersey enacted new employment protections this year for marijuana users. As of May 10, 2020, New York City employers will no longer be allowed to require pre-hire marijuana or THC drug testing (with limited exception for certain safety and security sensitive, federally regulated or union jobs). New Jersey employers may still test job applicants and employees for marijuana, but, under the state’s new Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act, individuals who test positive must be given the opportunity to present a medical explanation for the result. The Act also protects medical marijuana users against adverse employment action based on their status as a registered patient.

 

#9: BE PREPARED FOR INCREASED PAID FAMILY LEAVE
Both New York and New Jersey have recently expanded paid family leave provisions – and there is still more to come in 2020. As of January 1, 2020, the number of weeks of paid leave for New York employees will remain the same at 10 weeks but wage replacement benefits will increase to 60 percent of average weekly wage, up to a cap of 55 percent of the state average. New Jersey employees taking leave on or after July 1, 2020 will be entitled both to longer absences (up to 12 consecutive weeks or 56 days taken on an intermittent basis) and to larger wage replacement payments through New Jersey Family Leave Insurance and New Jersey Temporary Disability Insurance. Make sure you have compliant paid family leave laws in place for 2020.
CLICK HERE and HERE for more on 2019’s significant changes to New Jersey’s paid family leave law. ]

 

And, the #10 way to make sure you are ready for 2020 . . . it’s a tie:  UPDATE YOUR EMPLOYEE HANDBOOKS and TRAIN YOUR WORKFORCE TO DRIVE CULTURE IN A POSITIVE DIRECTION!

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