The new year brings with it significant changes to employment law in New York City and New York State. New York employers should be mindful of the following legislation in order to ensure compliance with their new obligations.

Laws Targeting Harassment and Discrimination

New York City and New York State each passed comprehensive laws targeting harassment and discrimination in the workplace in 2019. This new legislation mandates annual sexual harassment training, prohibits mandatory arbitration of discrimination claims, and restricts the inclusion of nondisclosure agreements or provisions in the settlement of a discrimination claim, among other things. Please click here for a more detailed summary of these new laws.

Further Expansion of Anti-Discrimination Protections

The Pay Equity Act

The New York State Achieve Pay Equity Act was amended to prohibit pay discrimination against an employee based on the employee's membership in any class protected by the New York State Human Rights Law, which includes, inter alia, age, race, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability.

Discrimination Based on Gender Identity and Expression

The New York State Human Rights Law was amended to add gender identity and expression to the categories that are protected. Notably, discrimination based on gender identity was already prohibited under the New York City Human Rights Law.

Discrimination Based on Hairstyle

The New York City Commission on Human Rights issued guidance in early 2019 advising employers that the New York City Human Rights Law protects the rights of employees to maintain their natural hair or hairstyles that are closely associated with racial identity. New York State again followed suit on July 12, 2019 by passing legislation that provides that not only race, but traits historically associated with race such as hair texture and protective hairstyles, are protected from discrimination.

Protection of Reproductive Health Decisions

The New York City Human Rights Law and New York State Human Rights Law were amended to protect employees' decisions regarding their reproductive health, effective May 20, 2019 and November 8, 2019 respectively. New York City employees cannot be subjected to discrimination based on their decisions regarding birth control, emergency contraception, family planning, or abortion, among other things.

Application of the New York City Human Rights Law to Independent Contractors

Effective January 11, 2020, the antidiscrimination protections of the New York City Human Rights Law will be extended to independent contractors and freelancers. This means that contractors and freelancers will be able to bring claims against employers alleging discrimination based on age, citizenship status, color, disability, gender, gender identity, marital status, national origin, pregnancy, race, religion, sexual orientation, veteran status, or any other category protected by the New York City Human Rights Law if the employer is covered by the New York City Human Rights Law.

Voting Leave

Just in time for the 2020 election, New York State expanded statutory voting leave. Employees in New York State are now entitled to up to three hours of paid time off to vote at the beginning or end of their working hours.

Minimum Wage Increase

Effective December 31, 2019, the minimum wage for employers in New York City with 10 or fewer employees increased to $15.00 per hour; the minimum wage for employers in Long Island and Westchester increased to $13.00 per hour; and the minimum wage for employers in the remaining areas of New York State increased to $11.80 per hour. The minimum wage for employers in New York City with 11 or more employees remains at $15.00 per hour. The minimum wage for fast food workers in New York City also remains at $15.00 per hour while the minimum wage for fast food workers outside of New York City increased to $13.75 per hour.

Salary Threshold Increase

Like the minimum wage, the salary threshold for exemption from overtime in New York State also increased effective December 31, 2019. In order for executive and administrative employees in New York to be exempt from overtime, they must satisfy a duties and salary test. The salary threshold for exemption is now $1,125.00 per week (or $58,500 annually) for employers in New York City with 10 or fewer employees. For employers in Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester counties, the salary threshold is now $975.00 per week (or $50,700 annually), and the salary threshold for all other employers in New York State is now $885.00 per week (or $46,020 annually). Furthermore, employers that operate outside of New York should note that the federal salary threshold has increased to $684 per week (or $35,568 annually) because if the state in which such employers operate do not have a salary threshold or if the state's salary threshold is lower than the federal salary threshold, the federal salary threshold will apply.

Paid Family Leave

As of January 1, 2020, eligible employees may take up to 10 weeks of paid family leave during a 52-week period and receive the lower of 60% of their average weekly wage or the state's average weekly wage (which is currently $1401.17). Please click here for more information on New York State's Paid Family Leave Law.

Salary History Ban

While New York City previously adopted a law prohibiting employers from asking about a job applicant's current or prior compensation, New York State recently adopted a similar salary history ban. Effective January 6, 2020, employers in New York State are prohibited from directly or indirectly inquiring about an applicant's salary history. Employers also cannot request prior salary history information from their current employees as a condition of being interviewed or considered for a promotion. Please click here for further information on this new law.

Prohibition on Pre-employment Marijuana Drug Testing

Effective May 10, 2020, New York City employers will be banned from requiring prospective employees to submit to testing for the presence of any tetrahydrocannabinols or marijuana in their systems as a condition of employment with certain exceptions. Please click here for further information on this new law.

Protection of Employee Private Information

New York State has enacted the Stop Hacks and Improve Electronic Data Security Act (the "SHIELD" Act), which applies to employers that maintain information about New York-based applicants and employees. Effective March 21, 2020, the SHIELD Act requires employers to implement a data security program that includes reasonable administrative, technical, and physical safeguards. The Shield Act also currently imposes new notification requirements in the event of a breach of private information. Please click here for further information on this new law.


In light of the multitude of changes to New York employment law which will need to be implemented this coming year, employers should review their workplace policies and practices to ensure that they are in compliance with state and local law.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.