Don’t Drop the Ball Before the Ball Drops: What’s New in 2020

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Cue Auld Lang Syne

Should all the old laws be forgot, and never brought to mind, below we’ll explain all the new laws to keep you from being fined. 

As you know, Santa kept those crazy legislative Elves very busy in their workshops all year churning out new laws to leave under our trees. We’d have preferred good old fashion coal.  Anyway, we’ve read all those confounded instructions for you and put together all the new toys. Here’s how they work: 

Let’s start with the Garden State…

  • Minimum Wage of $11/hr as of 1-1-20. 

  • CEPA Notice and Gender Equity Notice. We hope you know that by the start of each new year, NJ employers must distribute a CEPA Notice (if 10+ employees) and the Gender Equity Notice (if 50+ employees). In October 2019, the DOL issued a new version of the CEPA Notice, so use that one. 

  • Salary History Ban as of 1-1-20. No more salary history questions on applications. Interviewers can’t ask about prior compensation or benefits. Outside recruiters can require the information, but can’t disclose it without written consent from the potential employee. NJ employers must also tell background check companies that salary history cannot be disclosed. If the data somehow ends up in the report, employers must pretend they didn’t see it. Good one. For more details, check out Employment Law Never Sleeps and other classics.

  • The Crown Act. On 12-19-19, Murph signed the Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair Act (the “CROWN Act”), which immediately amended NJLAD to add to the meaning of  “race,” traits historically associated with race, including but not limited to, hair texture, hair type, and protective hairstyles (which means braids, locks and twists). This caused an outcry from those with cold heads this time year who have proposed another stretch of an acronym law, the Be Appreciative of Lacking Domes Act (the “BALD Act”). We’ll keep you posted, but rumors in Trenton are that support for the BALD Act are thinning. So sorry.

  • NJ Family Leave Act. Remember that if you have 30 or more employees, the NJ Family Leave Act has applied since June 30, 2019, so you need a policy and to abide. And starting 7-1-20, NJ Family Leave Insurance doubles from 6 to 12 weeks of compensation during an FMLA, NJFLA and now SAFE Act leave, and the number of intermittent days for which an employee can be paid goes from 42 to 56 in a 12 month period. The weekly benefit will also increase to 85% of an employee’s weekly salary up to a max of $859. Now here’s a big one: employers will no longer be able to require employees to use 2 weeks of PTO in lieu of NJFLI.  

We’re also in a New York State of mind…

  • Minimum Wage of $15/hr as of 12-31-19 for NYC employers with fewer than 11 employees now join their bigger brethren who already pay $15/hr. Please note, LI/Westchester is $13/hr., while the rest of NYS is $11.80. 

  • Salary History Ban as of 1-6-20.  This is similar to NJ’s ban and the NYC version (in effect since 2017). The details are also described in Employment Law Never Sleeps. 

  • NYS Reproductive Health Act. On 1-7-20, an amendment to the RHA becomes effective requiring all employers with a handbook to include a notice of employee rights and remedies regarding reproductive health decisions and stating that employers can’t discriminate on the basis of such decisions. Employers can no longer access an employee’s personal information or that of their dependents regarding reproductive health decisions. Employers also cannot discriminate against an employee because of their decision or that of their dependents to use or access a particular drug, device or medical service. So that means that hypothetically, if an employee is fired for poor performance and his dependent (wife or daughter) had an abortion 3 months before the termination, he could sue claiming that he was discriminated against under the RHA because the real reason for the term was the medical procedure even though the law prohibits access to the information. Wow!

  • Non-Disclosure Agreements as of 1-1-20, any NDA in an employment agreement must explicitly state that it does not prohibit an employee from making disclosures to “law enforcement, EEOC, State Division of Human Rights, local commissions of human rights or an attorney retained by the employee or potential employee.” 

  • NYS Human Rights Law as of 2-8-20, the definition of employer goes from those with 4 or more employees to 1 or more, and as of 8-12-20, the statute of limitations for sexual harassment claims increases from 1 to 3 years. 

  • NYC No Doobie Testing as of 5-10-20, most employers in NYC will no longer be able to include Cannabis in their pre-employment drug screen.

  • NYS Salary Threshold for Exempt employees as of 12-31-19, Remember that NYS bucks the federal standard for classifying Exempt employees. So on New Year’s Eve, for an employee to remain Exempt in NYS, they must earn the following minimum salary: NYC-$58,500, LI/Westchester-$50,700, and rest of NYS-$46,020.

Last but not least, the federal Salary Threshold for Exempt employees increases on 1-1-20 from $23,660 to $35,568, and the highly compensated threshold from $100,000 to $107,432.

So with all this dense, mostly humorless good news in mind, thank you for paying attention in 2019—and we wish you all a very happy and healthy New Year!