The HR Specialist: New York Employment Law

In December, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation eliminating employers’ obligation to file an annual statement under the Wage Theft Protection Act. The annual statement provided a snapshot of pay rates and to employees each January.

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Employers are free to set hiring standards and then to pick from the most qualified applicants. Disappointed applicants can’t sue just because they believe they were somehow discriminated against. They have to offer some proof that the employer didn’t hire the best-qualified applicant.

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Online retail giant Amazon and the NLRB have resolved an unfair labor practices claim with an agreement that could lead to unionization of many of the company’s warehouses. The move was prompted by a heavy-handed response to an employee complaint during an employee meeting.

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A study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Labor finds that somewhere between 3.5% and 6.5% of workers in New York earn less than the minimum wage. The study, performed by Eastern Research Group, showed that more than 300,000 New York workers were being paid illegally low wages.

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As of Dec. 22, 2014, employers in New York must grant leave to employees who also serve as volunteer emergency responders during times when the governor has declared a state of emergency or if a federal emergency has been declared.

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It’s illegal to retaliate against employees for engaging in protected activity. But not every complaint qualifies as protected activity. For example, under Title VII, retaliation is only illegal if it relates to a complaint about some form of discrimination covered by that law.

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It’s almost always a bad idea to make an example out of a terminated employee.

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Employees are supposed to notify their employers about their need for FMLA leave as soon as is practical. When they are already out on leave with a set return date, the same rule applies if the employee will need more time off. He or she can’t just extend the leave without telling anyone and expect to keep the job.

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If you decide to deviate from your usual rules, make sure you have a legitimate business-related reason for doing so. Otherwise, you risk potential litigation if the affected employee claims the real reason you made an exception was his protected status.

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We’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating: The only appropriate comment when an em­­ployee announces she’s pregnant is a cheerful “Congratulations!” Anything else can end up being used against you if you eventually have to discipline or even fire the expecting mother.

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