Mark Goldstein contributed to the content of this post.

Day 3: Administrative Regulations Take Center Stage

Each day this week, we will “unwrap” one of five pressing employment law issues on the 2014 horizon for New York state and city employers. On Monday and Tuesday, we covered the minimum wage hike and new city laws. Today’s topic is administrative updates.

On November 18, 2013, New York became the 15th state to partner with the United States Department of Labor (“DOL”) to combat workplace misclassifications of employees as independent contractors.  Over the next few years, employers statewide can, consequently, expect heightened scrutiny, from both federal and state regulators, regarding the use of appropriate classifications.

And beyond the DOL’s misclassification initiative, employers should brace for the implementation of regulations mandating stricter compliance with the state’s unemployment insurance compensation system. As we more fully detailed here, the Unemployment Insurance Integrity Act, passed in 2011, required that all states adopt measures, on or before October 21, 2013, to implement and enforce its provisions. A bill signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo last March more than complies with this directive. Specifically, employers must now respond to an initial claim for unemployment benefits by the date specified in the notice, with untimely or inadequate responses forgiven only for good cause. As a corollary, the new law provides that an employer who responds tardily or insufficiently to the DOL will not be relieved from charges to its account resulting from an overpayment of benefits, even where the claimant is ultimately found ineligible for benefits or was overpaid.

And, effective January 1, 2014, a departed employee is precluded by law from receiving unemployment benefits for any week in which s/he receives severance pay greater than the maximum benefit rate, with lump sum severance payments allocated on a weekly basis.  A claimant, however, will remain eligible for unemployment benefits where s/he gets the severance pay at least 30 days after the last day of employment.  Employers should therefore review and revise, as appropriate, the unemployment compensation-related provisions of their severance proposals and agreements.