For one reason or another, there are a number of employers that don’t have an employee handbook. Usually it is because they are too new a business with too few employees to justify having one, or they consider handbooks oppressive documents that employees never read anyway. It’s not the subject of this post, so I won’t go into the many reasons why I am a proponent of the employee handbook, other than to say, if you don’t have one now, please have one soon. In the meantime, employers without handbooks still need to provide employees with various notices and policies throughout their employment. This is by law.
For example, under New York State law, the notices and policies that an employer must provide to employees at the time of hire include:
- Fringe Benefits and Hours – The New York Labor Law requires every employer to notify their employees in writing by publicly posting the employer’s policy on sick leave, vacation, personal leave, holidays and hours.
- Pay Notices – New York’s Wage Theft Prevention Act requires all employers to notify their employees, in writing, at the time of hiring of: (1) rate or rates of pay, including overtime rate of pay (if it applies); (2) how the employee is paid (by the hour, shift, day, week, commission, etc.); (3) regular payday; (4) official name of the employer and any other names used for business (DBA); (5) address and phone number of the employer’s principal location; and (6) allowances taken as part of the minimum wage (tips, meal and lodging deductions). Employers must provide the notice in English and the employee’s primary language, so long as the Commissioner of the New York State Department of Labor has made such notice available to employers in such language on the New York State Department of Labor’s website. Employers must also provide this notice prior to any change in the employee’s rate of pay.
- Paid Family Leave – New York’s Paid Family Leave Benefits Law provides New York employees with up to 12 weeks of job-protected paid family leave to bond with a new child, care for a family member with a serious health condition, or address a qualifying exigency relating to the active military duty of a spouse, domestic partner, child, or parent. While benefits will increase to 12 weeks of leave in 2021, employees currently may only take up to 10 weeks of Paid Family Leave. Employers who do not maintain an employee handbook or written policies regarding benefits and/or leave, must display or post, in plain view, a notice concerning paid family leave in a form prescribed by the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board. (If an employer maintains an employee handbook or written policies regarding benefits and/or leave, then information concerning paid family leave must be included within the handbook or policies.)
- Policy Prohibiting Sexual Harassment – Every employer in the New York State is required to adopt a sexual harassment prevention policy and provide a copy in writing to each employee. An employer that does not adopt the model policy issued by the State of New York must ensure that the policy that they adopt meets or exceeds certain minimum standards.
- Blood Donation Leave – The New York Labor Law also mandates that employers provide leave time to employees for the purpose of donating blood. Pursuant to guidelines established by the Commissioner of the New York State Department of Labor, employers must notify employees in writing of their right to take blood donation leave. Such notification must be made in a manner that will ensure that employees see it, such as by posting in a prominent spot in an area where employees congregate, inclusion of notice with employees’ paychecks, mailings, notices in employee handbooks, or other comparable method. If employers provide written notice directly to the employee, it must do so at the time of hire to new employees, and thereafter, to all employees on an annual basis, no later than the 15th day of January.
This post addresses only a small fraction of employer obligations to notify employees of their rights under the law. Various federal and New York City laws also require employers to distribute certain notices and policies to employees at the time of hire. Further, federal, New York State and New York City laws require employers to display specific posters at the place of employment and to provide employees with additional notices during the employment relationship and at termination of employment, not just at the time of hire.