From Non-Competes To Sick Leave: Catch Up With NY Employment Law Updates

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A lot of attention is paid to federal employment laws, for good reason. However, with each state and city, including New York, having their own regulations, it can be difficult for employers to track.
United States Employment and HR
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A lot of attention is paid to federal employment laws, for good reason. However, with each state and city, including New York, having their own regulations, it can be difficult for employers to track. Keeping in mind those overlapping jurisdictions, the following is an overview of recent developments in employment and labor law that specifically affect New York employers.

Paid leave

There are two noteworthy new obligations for employers related to paid leave: Every New York State employer providing employees with up to 20 hours of paid leave for prenatal care starting January 1, 2025, as well as paid lactation breaks effective June 19, 2024.

The 20 hours of paid prenatal leave is on top of up to 56 hours of paid sick leave New York State employers already are required to provide to qualified employees. The leave is to be used for health care services related to pregnancy. Employees will be permitted to use this leave in hourly increments, and employers are not required to pay out unused leave upon termination.

Effective June 19, 2024, every New York State employer will be required to provide paid break time of up to 30 minutes and permit an employee to use existing paid break time or mealtime for time in excess of 30 minutes to express breast milk “each time such employee has reasonable need … for up to three years following child birth.” Currently, employers are only required to provide reasonable unpaid breaks to express breast milk during the workday.

Another sick leave change for 2025: The state's COVID-19 paid sick leave law, which required employers to provide five or 14 days of job-protected, paid leave, winds down as of July 31, 2025.

And finally on this topic, the New York City Earned Safe and Sick Time Act now allows employees who allege a violation of the act to file a lawsuit to enforce their claims. Potential remedies include compensatory damages, injunctive and declaratory relief, as well as attorneys' fees and costs. This private right of action is in addition to being able to file an administrative complaint with the New York City Department of Consumer and Worker Protection NYCDCWP).

Employee non-competes

As has been covered widely in the news, the FTC issued a new nationwide Final Rule banning the use of non-compete agreements by most private employers. This ban stemmed from its determination that non-compete clauses are an unfair method of competition. It includes some notable exceptions, such as for non-competes entered into pursuant to a bona fide sale of a business and certain entities not subject to FTC jurisdiction. Other than for existing non-competes with “senior executives” earning over $151,164 annually and holding a policymaking position, this ban will apply retroactively, and employers will be required to provide employees who are currently subject to an existing non-compete clause with written notice that their non-competes are no longer enforceable. Importantly, the senior executive exemption does not apply to non-competes entered into on or after the effective date of the Final Rule, which is expected to be September 4, 2024.

This publication of the Final Rule came just months after Gov. Kathy Hochul vetoed New York legislation that would have prohibited most non-competes. The New York City Council also is considering several bills prohibiting non-competes – one to broadly prohibit non-competes for all New York City workers, including independent contractors; another to prohibit non-competes for low-wage employees; and a third to generally bar non-competes for freelance workers.

With the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others suing the FTC over the ban and seeking a nationwide injunction barring enforcement, this discussion will be ongoing. In the meantime, it is important for employers to work with legal counsel to be prepared to comply if the Final Rule becomes effective.

Minimum wage

Last year, Gov. Hochul signed into law a bill that increased New York State's minimum wage over the next three years, with the minimum wage eventually equaling $17 per hour in New York City, Westchester and Long Island.

The first increase took effect January 1, 2024, and continues the recent trend of establishing higher wage thresholds downstate. For 2024, the minimum wage in New York City, Westchester and Long Island is $16 per hour. In the rest of the state, the minimum wage increased to $15 per hour. This compares with the federal minimum of $7.25 per hour.

NY labor law salary thresholds

As of March 13, 2024, the salary threshold to be exempt from certain protections set forth in the New York Labor Law increased from $900 to $1,300 per week, which equals $67,600 per year. Article 6 of the NY Labor Law, among other things, regulates how wage payments are made. Those employed in a bona fide executive, administrative or professional capacity whose weekly earnings exceed the salary threshold are exempt from:

  • The requirement to “pay clerical or other workers” not less than semi-monthly;
  • The requirement of obtaining “advance written consent” before paying wages or salary by direct deposit; and
  • Being subject to criminal penalties for failing to pay “benefits or wage supplements,” such as reimbursement of expenses, health and welfare or retirement benefits, vacation and severance pay.

This salary threshold differs from the new increases in the level to be exempt from overtime under NY Labor Law. Under those regulations, which took effect January 1, 2024, the salary thresholds increased in New York City and Long Island to $1,200 per week or $62,400 annually; and in the rest of New York State to $1,124.20 per week or $58,458.40 annually. To make things more complicated for multi-state employers, New York's existing exempt status salary thresholds exceed the levels recently established by the U.S. Department of Labor for various overtime exemptions under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

Workers' Bill of Rights

The NYCDCWP released its Workers' Bill of Rights, which includes information about federal, state and local laws. By July 1, 2024, New York City employers must provide a copy of the multilingual “Your Rights at Work” poster to current employees, as well as to new employees on or before their first day. They must post it in an area that is accessible and visible to employees and make it available online or on its mobile application if those are regularly used to communicate with employees. The poster must be in English, plus any language spoken as a primary language by at least 5 percent of employees if the poster is available in that language.

Originally published by Crain's New York Business.

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.

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