As part of New York’s 2016-2017 budget, Governor Cuomo signed two bills into law that will have a lasting effect on New York families and workers. Governor Cuomo announced a new and comprehensive family medical leave policy as well as a $15 minimum wage plan, both of which will be implemented gradually in the next few years.[1]

1. New York Family-Leave Policy

While employees working at companies with more than 50 employees have enjoyed 12 weeks of unpaid job-protected leave since the passing of the Family Medical Leave Act in 1993 (“FMLA”), New York’s revolutionary family-leave policy requires that all employers, regardless of size, provide 12 weeks of paid job-protected leave to care for a new child (including adopted or foster child), or to care for a sick parent, child, spouse, domestic partner, or other family member.[2] While the FMLA requires that an employee work a certain amount of hours per week and have worked for a company for more than one (1) year, New York’s family-leave policy covers both full-time and part-time employees and takes effect after six (6) months of employment.[3]

Benefits will be phased-in beginning in 2018 at 50 percent of an employee’s average weekly wage, capped to 50 percent of the statewide average weekly wage, and fully implemented in 2021 at 67 percent of their average weekly wage, and then capped to 67 percent of the statewide average weekly wage.[4] This program will be funded entirely through a nominal payroll deduction from employees’ paychecks, resulting in zero out-of-pocket costs to employers big or small.[5]

2. $15 Minimum Wage Plan

New York employees have seen a steady increase in the minimum wage since December 31, 2013, when the minimum wage went from $7.15 to $8.00 and has since climbed to $9.00 as of December 31, 2015.[6] New York hospitality industry workers have also benefited from more protections through the Hospitality Industry Wage Order, which went into effect on January 1, 2011. This wage order requires employers in the hospitality industry to comply with strict guidelines regarding tip credit notification, tip pooling, spread of hours, and uniforms. The wage order also provides for a higher minimum wage, with a focus on food service employees.[7]

Now, with Governor Cuomo’s signature, all employers in all industries will be required to pay their employees at least $15 an hour.[8] According to the $15 Minimum Wage Plan:

  • Workers in New York City employed by large businesses (those with at least 11 employees), are expected to be paid a minimum wage of $11 by the end of 2016, then another $2 each year thereafter, reaching $15 on 12/31/2018.
  • Workers in New York City employed by small businesses (those with 10 employees or fewer), are expected to be paid a minimum wage of $10.50 by the end of 2016, then another $1.50 each year thereafter, reaching $15 on 12/31/2019.
  • Workers in Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester Counties are expected to be paid a minimum wage of $10 by the end of 2016, then another $1 each year thereafter, reaching $15 on 12/31/2021.
  • Workers in the rest of the state are expected to be paid a minimum wage of $9.70 at the end of 2016, then another $0.70 each year thereafter, reaching $12.50 on 12/31/2020. The minimum wage will continue to increase to $15 on a schedule to be determined by the Director of the Division of Budget in consultation with the Department of Labor.[9]

In advance of these new mandates, which will go into effect by the end of December 2016, it is important that all employers review their internal company policies and handbooks and provide company training to managers and employees to ensure compliance in the coming years.