New York Law Bans Penalties for Protected Absences
New York recently passed a law that prohibits employers from penalizing workers for taking legally protected leave. The law states that it’s illegal retaliation if an employer disciplines workers by assessing points or deductions from a time bank when an employee uses any form of legally protected time off. It will take effect on Feb. 20, 2023. The law applies to any absences protected under local, state, or federal law. It impacts no-fault attendance policies under which employers count a point against an employee who is absent, regardless of the reason for the absence. No-fault attendance policies tend to be more common in union settings and industries involving manufacturing and manual labor.
NYS Expands Accommodations for Nursing Mothers in the Workplace
Since 2017 New York State’s Nursing Mothers in the Workplace Act has required New York employers to provide daily paid or unpaid break time to express milk for up to three years following the birth of a child and to provide a room for expressing milk, in privacy, close to the employee’s work location.
On Dec. 9, 2022, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed legislation effective June 7, 2023, to clarify these obligations. The state amendment provides detailed requirements for the designated lactation room. Employers must designate a room or location for an employee to express breast milk that is in close proximity to their work area, well-lit, shielded from view and free from intrusion from other persons in the workplace or the public. In addition, the room must contain a chair, a working surface, nearby access to clean running water and an electrical outlet, if the workplace is supplied with electricity.
The room cannot be a restroom or toilet stall. If the function of the room is not solely dedicated to lactation, it must be made available to a nursing mother when needed and cannot be used for any other purpose while being used by an employee to express milk. Employers must give notice to all employees when the room has been designated for lactation. Employers must provide access to refrigeration to store milk, if the workplace has access to refrigeration. Finally, the amendment clarifies that a nursing mother is entitled to take a lactation break each time such employee has reasonable need to express breast milk.
New York Modifies Pay Transparency Law to Address Remote Work
New York’s salary transparency law is set to take effect September 17. It requires employers to disclose the compensation or range of compensation in any advertisement for a job, promotion, or transfer opportunity. In addition to salary disclosure, employers must also disclose the job description for the position, If one exists. Employers are required to keep records that show the history of compensation ranges for each job opportunity and the job description for the position.
New York State Revises Sexual Harassment Prevention Guidance
New York state recently updated its sexual harassment prevention model policy and training requirements, which employers will need to incorporate into their handbooks and communication with employees.
The new guidance:
- Notes that harassment does not need to be “severe or persuasive” to be illegal in New York.
- Adds more examples of sexual harassment, discrimination, and retaliation, including circumstances in which sexual harassment can occur while working remotely.
- Adds a section on bystander intervention and provides tools and methods that can be used when an employee witnesses discrimination or harassment.
- Adds language regarding gender diversity and gender-based harassment and discrimination, which can include gender stereotyping and treating employees differently because they identify as cisgender, transgender, or nonbinary.
- Provides emphasis and guidance on supervisors’ and managers’ responsibility to report harassment and discrimination.
- Explains that harmless intent is not a defense for harassment and discrimination and that the impact of the behavior on a person is what counts.
Adds information regarding the New York State Division of Human Rights’ sexual harassment hotline.
- New York’s law is stricter than federal law. Be aware that sexual harassment can occur in texts, e-mails, and Zoom meetings.