Why should employers consider updating their employee handbooks in 2019?

The year 2018 was an important one for the field of employment law, especially in New York.  During 2018, a host of legislation was passed to address the now recognized systemic problem of sexual harassment in the workplace. New York further adopted several wage increases set to take place this year, and additional leave benefits for employees.  Given the plethora of changes to employment laws set to start in 2019, employers will be wise to consider updating their employee handbooks to stay abreast with current laws.  

New Sexual Harassment Laws 

In 2018, the #MeToo movement brought to light the alarming prevalence of sexual harassment in the workplace.  Women in a wide range of industries stepped out to report their abuse at the hands of supervisors, other employees, and management.  In response to the #MeToo movement, New York State and New York City passed laws clarifying and strengthening anti-sexual harassment policies for employers.  By the end of 2019, all employers will need to provide employees with clear anti-sexual harassment policies and training.  Further, employers cannot require employees to enter into arbitration of sexual harassment claims.  If a sexual harassment claim is negotiated, confidentiality must be separately negotiated in accordance with New York’s new law on the matter.


Minimum Wage Increases

As of January 1st of 2019, the hourly minimum wage in New York increased, as did the exemption limit for employees in executive and administrative roles.  Now, employers in New York City with 11 or more employees must pay their employees $15 an hour or more, while those with less than 11 employees will pay at least $13.50.  In Westchester, Nassau, and Suffolk counties, the minimum wage is now $12, and in the remainder of the state, it is set to $11.10.  Within New York City, larger firms must pay employees in managerial roles at least $1,125 to be exempt from overtime.

Safe Leave and Schedule Changes 

In New York City, two additional laws were passed aimed at allowing employees more time off and flexibility in their scheduling.  New York City’s Earned Sick Time Act was altered in 2018 to allow employees to use their paid time off if necessary for family offense matters, such as stalking, sexual offenses, and the like.  In July of 2018, NYC passed a law that provides employees who have been employed for at least 120 days with the chance to request temporary changes to their work schedule for personal events, like childcare matters, sick leave, legal proceedings, and more.

These and other law changes will need to be incorporated within your employee handbook so that your employees clearly knew their rights and responsibilities.  Contact an employment law attorney for more assistance with staying abreast of changing employment laws.