Executive Budget sets forth New York State minimum wage increases and paid family leave


Recently, the 2016-2017 Executive Budget was announced and officially presented two anticipated pieces of legislation: minimum wage increases for all employees and paid family leave.


Minimum Wage Increases for Employees Working in New York State

The minimum wage increases will, for the most part, track what was already implemented pursuant to the fast food workers law. The changes are as follows:Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 5.25.10 PM

For purposes of this new legislation, a “large” employer has eleven (11) or more employees and a “small” employer has ten (10) or fewer employees. There is no distinction between full or part-time employees.

Minimum Wage Increases for Fast Food and Chain Industry

As a reminder, fast food workers employed in New York City saw their minimum wage increase to $10.50 as of December 31, 2015, while fast food workers throughout the rest of the State had their minimum wage increase to $9.75. These increases were the first steps taken by the State pursuant to its plan of reaching a $15.00 minimum wage. The full schedule is as follows:Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 7.40.04 PM

Paid Family Benefits Law

The other big announcement was the highly anticipated “Paid Family Benefits Law,” set to take effect as of January 1, 2018. Much more will be written and discussed about this law as that date approaches, but for now a few primers

  • Know the FMLA. Many of you are familiar with the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), and that familiarity will serve you well as the State’s Paid Family Benefits Law (“PFBL”) tracks the language of the FMLA in many important ways. Notably, both laws permit employees to take up to twelve (12) weeks of job protected leave to care for themselves or a family member suffering from a serious health condition, to bond with the employee’s child during the first twelve (12) months following the child’s birth or following the placement of the child for adoption or foster care, or because of a qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the spouse, domestic partner, child or parent of the employee is on active duty in the armed forces of the USA. Other similarities include an anti-retaliation provision and a requirement that the employee be placed in a similar position upon return from leave.
  • Departures from the FMLA. In addition to the fact that the FMLA provides unpaid leave and the PFBL requires paid leave, the other main difference between the two laws is that while the FMLA only applies to employers with 50 or more employees, the PFBL is applicable to all employers with at least one employee.
  • Breakdown of pay structure. Once the PFBL takes effect, eligible employees (eligible means employed for four (4) or more consecutive weeks) are to receive the following: (i) on or after January 1, 2018, the payment shall be 50% of the employee’s average weekly wage, not to exceed 50% of the State’s average weekly wage, for a period no more than eight (8) weeks during any fifty-two (52) week calendar period; (ii) on or after January 1, 2019, the payment shall be 55% of the employee’s average weekly wage, not to exceed 55% of the State’s average weekly wage, for a period no more than ten (10) weeks during any fifty-two (52) week calendar period; (iii) on and after January 1, 2020, the payment shall be 60% of the employee’s average weekly wage, not to exceed 60% of the State’s average weekly wage, for a period no more than ten (10) weeks during any fifty-two (52) week calendar period; and (iv) on and after January 1st of each succeeding year the payment shall be 67% of the employee’s average weekly wage, not to exceed 67% of the State’s average weekly wage, for a period no more than twelve (12) weeks during any fifty-two (52) week calendar period. Weekly benefits for leave shall not be less than $100.00 per week unless the employee’s wages at the time of injury are less than $100.00 per week, in which case the employee shall receive his or her full wages.
  • Similar to other insurance plans. The PFBL is found in the New York State Workers’ Compensation Law and should be viewed similar to workers’ compensation and disability benefits plans. Like those two programs, the payments made to eligible employees pursuant to the PFBL will be distributed from a State administered fund, which will in turn be funded by contributions made by employees. Furthermore, such contributions may be deducted straight from employees’ wages. No employer will be required to fund any portion of the PFBL benefit.

New York City’s Commuter Benefits Law

The New York City Commuter Benefits Law (“CBL”) went into effect January 1, 2016, but allowed a six-month grace period before authorizing the Department of Consumer Affairs to seek penalties. With the end of the grace period (July 1, 2016) quickly approaching, a few primers on this new local law:

  • The CBL requires covered employers to offer eligible employees the opportunity to use pre-tax income to purchase qualified transportation benefits. There are several companies that can be utilized to manage such programs.
  • The CBL only applies to non-government employers with twenty (20) or more full-time employees working in New York City. Notably, if an employer has more than twenty (20) full-time employees, but less than twenty (20) full-time employees actually working in New York City, the CBL does not apply. Example: ABC, Inc. has ten (10) full-time employees working at its Manhattan office and fifteen (15) full-time employees working at its Nassau County office. The CBL does not require ABC, Inc. to comply with its provisions.
  • The CBL does not apply to employees who are covered by a collective bargaining agreement. However, if the employer has a mix of union and non-union employees and there are at least twenty (20) non-union, full-time workers, then the CBL will apply to those non-union employees.
  • A full-time employee means an employee who works an average of thirty (30) or more hours per week. Notably, a full-time employee includes any employee who works in New York City for any portion of the thirty (30) hour average. Example: XYZ, Corp. employs twenty-five (25) full-time employees, primarily working in New Jersey. Twenty (20) of these employees occasionally work in New York City, and therefore XYZ, Corp. must comply with the requirements of the CBL.
  • Employers can be fined $100.00 to $250.00 for a first violation, and an additional fine of $250.00 may be issued after every additional 30-day period of noncompliance.