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New York’s new employment laws hit employers hard

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

Last year, while you were hard at work, so was the New York Legislature. Lawmakers passed a record number of laws affecting employers in 2007. Some laws you may have read about, while others you may have missed. Make sure you're up to speed on new state laws that surely will impact how you manage employees in 2008 and beyond.

Contracts for commissioned salespeople

If you haven’t done so already, make certain all your commissioned salespeople have a written contract outlining the terms of their employment. The contract must describe two things in detail: (1) how wages, salary, draws and commissions are calculated while the salesperson is employed and (2) what happens after termination.

This change to the New York Wage Payment Law (NY Lab. Law §191(c)) went into effect on Oct. 16, 2007. The new provision also requires both the employee and the employer to sign the contract. You must keep a copy on file for at least three years and make it available for inspection upon request by the commissioner of labor.

What happens if you don’t have a written contract spelling out compensation terms? If you can’t produce one when the Labor Commission asks, there’s a presumption that the terms are what the employee claims they are.

If you are unsure what you should include in the written contract, consult your attorney, who can help you come up with an agreement that meets your needs and satisfies the law.

Salary threshold for wage payment exemptions

Also coming your way courtesy of the Legislature is a confusing new salary threshold for determining who must be paid at least semimonthly. As of Jan. 14, 2008, executive, administrative and professional employees earning less than $900 per week have to be paid at least semimonthly. The previous threshold was $600 per week (NY Lab. Law 190(7)).

In addition, you must obtain written consent in order to pay them by direct deposit.

Why this new rule? According to the Legislature, raising the threshold will expand the New York State Department of Labor’s jurisdiction (because it now covers more employees), thereby leading to more effective enforcement. How exactly this provision will do that is an open question.

The law does not raise the amount an executive, administrative or professional employee must be paid to qualify for the exemption from New York state overtime requirements. That cutoff remains at $536.10 per week.

Nursing mothers in the workplace

New mothers gained new rights in 2007. Effective Aug. 15, 2007, New York joined several other states in requiring that employers provide a reasonable amount of unpaid break time each day for a nursing mother to express breast milk. The Nursing Mothers in the Workplace Law also permits a nursing mother to use paid break time or meal time to express milk. The benefit continues for up to three years following childbirth.

Employers must make “reasonable efforts” to provide a room or other location, in close proximity to the employee’s work area, so milk can be expressed in private.

If an employer can prove that providing the break time would seriously disrupt operations, the employer need not provide the break time.

Because special interest groups pushed hard to get this law passed, chances are employers who try to claim the disruption defense may find themselves the target of protests or even boycotts. Before you dismiss setting up a break room, even in an industrial setting, consider the impact bad publicity may have on your business.

Consult your attorney for specific guidance on what may constitute disrupted operations.

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