Although New York State’s recent strict assault weapons ban has garnered the majority of attention from Governor Andrew Cuomo’s 2013 legislative agenda, Governor Cuomo also has made significant proposals that will affect employers, including:

  • A proposal to raise New York’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.75 per hour.
  • A far-ranging Women’s Equality Act that would amend the New York State Human Rights Law to: (1) allow for liquidated damages equaling 300% of back wages due to the plaintiff; (2) eliminate justifications for gender pay differentials to performance only; (3) prohibit employers from terminating or retaliating against employees who share pay information; (4) eliminate the exception for employers with four or less employees; (5) add family status (e.g., an employee with children) as a protected class for employment discrimination; and (6) codify the requirement to make reasonable accommodations for pregnancy.
  • Reforms to the state’s unemployment insurance (IU) and workers’ compensation (WC) programs, including paying off the $3.5 billion unfunded UI liability through increased taxes and increased enforcement against fraud, and structural changes to the WC program intended to reduce costs.

Employers should note that, for now, New York State has a divided legislature, with Republicans controlling the Senate, so passage of these bills is not guaranteed. For instance, although Governor Cuomo introduced the minimum wage hike as part of his 2013 executive budget, he has admitted that it is unlikely to pass the Senate. Employers should stay tuned in the coming weeks and months.