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Employment Law News And Analysis

New law protects people from hair-based discrimination

For many decades now, there have been laws in place designed to provide protection for workers against being harassed or discriminated against. Some of these laws are federal and govern the entire country while others are specific to an individual state. New York State has recently taken another step forward in its effort to proactively guard against discriminatory behaviors in the workplace with a new law that takes effect immediately.

According to a report by NBC News, the law specifically targets discrimination based upon a person's natural hairstyle. It is intended to help people of color who may be more apt to be on the receiving end of discrimination because of the texture or style of their hair. In essence, such discrimination becomes almost one based on race given that the texture of hair may be a direct result of a person's heritage.

The importance of an employee handbook

Many small companies might not think that they need an employee handbook. With only a few employees, they can discuss policies in person easily enough and be flexible about some things like working from home or taking time off. However, that is not sustainable as a company grows and, even at a small size, a handbook with well-documented policies and procedures can protect businesses in the event that a problem occurs with even one employee down the road.

As explained by Paycor, a provider of human resources software, a good employee handbook protects employers and clarifies expectations for both employers and employees, ideally preventing potential problems caused by interpretation or misunderstandings. It can also help create and communicate the culture that a company has or wants to build and strengthen. A business' employees can be their biggest brand ambassadors so this can be very useful.

New York leads the way for equal pay

Most people in New York are familiar with the recent success that the women's United States soccer team has had, winning yet another World Cup. Their success, however, has come despite the fact that they are paid a mere pittance of what their male counterparts earn. This is allowed to happen even though the women's team has been more successful on the field than the men's team. Ongoing calls to change this are being heard by New York City's Mayor and New York State's Governor.

At a parade celebrating the team, the Governor signed new bills into law that take equal pay rights to a new level in the state of New York. According to a report by the New York Post, the existing equal pay laws will now be expanded to include a broader and more clearly defined set of protected classes, including women. Also part of the legislation signed was a bill that would prevent employers from asking job candidates about their past wage or salary earnings.

Qualifying for leave under FMLA

Like most working professionals in New York, you likely take your attendance in the workplace very seriously, and avoid missing work as much as you are able. Yet life often presents situations where having to take time away from work is unavoidable. Typically, such situations are due to family or medical issues involving you or members of your immediate. Your fears about having to miss work for an extended period of time are not unwarranted; many of those that come to us here at Raff & Becker, LLP share the same concerns. You will be happy to learn, however, that your employment status may be protected under the Family and Medical Leave Act. 

This particular piece of federal legislation prevents your employer from firing you if you need to take time away from work to deal with a family or medical issues. FMLA allows you to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave (every calendar year) in order to accommodate a pregnancy, adopt a child, deal with a serious medical condition or provide care to family member that is dealing with their own medical problem. These weeks of leave can be taken consecutively or broken up throughout the year. Upon returning to work, your employer must allow you to either resume the same position or provide you with a job that is similar to your pervious one in terms of pay, conditions and responsibilities. 

New Sexual Harassment Laws in New York State and New York City

New York State and New York City have new laws to battle sexual harassment in the workplace. If you are an employer doing business in New York State or in New York City, you need to be aware of your obligations under both state and city law and comply with their requirements to avoid fines and other potential liability. If you are an employee, you should be aware that your right to be free from sexual harassment in the workplace has been expanded.

Exempt Versus Non-Exempt Employees

Whether you are an employer or an employee in New York, it is important to understand the distinction between exempt and non-exempt employees. For employers, treating non-exempt employees as exempt could end up costing thousands of dollars in back pay, liquidated damages, and legal fees. For employees, the distinction between the two impacts your rights under federal and state minimum wage and overtime laws. Non-exempt employees generally must be paid at least the minimum wage for each hour of work and one-and-one-half times their regular rate of pay for each hour in excess of 40 per week. However, as explained below, some employees are exempt from the minimum wage requirement, overtime wage requirement, or both.

Freelance Isn't Free in New York City

On May 15, 2017, the New York City Freelance Isn't Free Act (Local Law 140 of 2016) took effect. This first-of-its kind act is designed to protect freelance workers and establishes penalties for employers who violate the law. If you are a freelance worker in New York City, or if you are an individual or a business who employs freelance workers, what should you know about the recently-enacted law?

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Phone: 212-577-9239
Phone: 212-577-9239
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