2013, a hectic year for labor and employment practitioners in New York, yielded mixed results for employers and, in too many instances, presented more questions than answers. Among the highlights, two federal district courts issued unprecedented decisions attempting to clarify the legal boundaries of unpaid labor in the workplace. And on the legislative front, the New York City Council continued its torrid expansion of the New York City Human Rights Law, already one of the nation’s broadest anti-discrimination statutes.

With 2013 almost fully behind us, however, it is time for New York State and City employers to brace for the impact of several of the more pressing employment law issues on the 2014 horizon. That is why, starting today, and each day this week, we will unwrapone of the five newest and most noteworthy issues poised to impact New York employers in the New Year.

Day 1: Minimum Wage Moving On Up, Up, Up‼

Today’s topic is the minimum wage hike. New York state’s minimum hourly wage will increase, effective December 31, 2013, from $7.25 to $8.00 (meaning that the minimum overtime rate will correspondingly spike to $12.00). Effective December 31, 2014, the minimum wage will rise to $8.75, and then to $9.00, on December 31, 2015.

In a related vein, the New York State Department of Labor is expected to soon finalize regulations outlining the impact of these minimum wage increases for tipped employees. The Department’s recently promulgated proposed guidance, which the final regulations will likely mirror, leaves the minimum wage for tipped workers in the hospitality industry unchanged (currently, $5.00 per hour for food service workers and $5.65 for service employees). The minimum hourly rate for tipped employees outside of the hospitality industry, however, is expected to rise slightly.

Finally, the minimum salary for exempt employees is also on the rise.  Effective December 31, exempt executive and administrative employees must receive at least $600.00 per week.  Like the minimum wage rate for hourly employees, the minimum salary for exempt workers will increase on both December 31, 2014 and December 31, 2015, to $656.25 and $675.00 per week, respectively.

What Does This Mean For My Company?

New York employers can and indeed should expect a bevy of changes over the next year. From the use of unpaid labor to paid sick leave to workplace bullying, the New York employment law landscape remains in flux and is as dynamic as ever. Employers should therefore consult with experienced counsel immediately to discuss these issues and prepare a cogent plan of action to face them head-on.

Be sure that this is a New Year’s resolution that you actually keep!