Today’s New York employment law landscape is increasingly dynamic, with a constant stream of newly issued legislation and judicial opinions. To keep our readers current on the latest developments, we will share regular summaries of recent developments affecting Empire State employers. Here’s what happened in March and April 2015:
Minimum Wage Hike Suffers a Setback
New York lawmakers recently dealt a significant, but not necessarily fatal, blow to Gov. Cuomo’s plan to raise the minimum wage to $10.50 per hour (and to $11.50 in NYC). In late March, state legislators surprisingly omitted the proposed wage hike from the state’s upcoming annual budget. The debate over whether to yet again raise the state’s minimum wage – which is already slated to increase to $9.00/hour on December 31, 2015 – is now left to unfold in the State Assembly and Senate over the next six weeks, until the 2015 legislative session ends on June 17.
State Assembly Passes “Family Care” Leave Bill
On March 17, the State Assembly passed a bill that would provide up to 12 weeks of partially paid “family care” leave to employees statewide. Under the bill, employees would be able to take a leave of absence, and receive up to one-half of their regular wages: (i) to participate in providing care for a family member’s serious health condition; (ii) to bond with a newly born or newly adopted child; or (iii) because of any qualifying exigency, as interpreted under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), arising out of the active duty of certain family members. Like FMLA leave, the proposed state family care leave law would allow employees to take family care leave on an intermittent or reduced schedule basis.
The family care leave bill is now under consideration by the Republican-controlled Senate, which earlier this year recommended its own family leave law. That proposal would have provided employees with up to six weeks of leave, with partial pay, for certain qualifying exigencies, but would have required the state to fund the program, at least in the first year. Passage of a family care leave bill – in any form – is hardly a certainty and will likely take a backseat to other initiatives that Gov. Cuomo is supporting, such as the minimum wage increase and the Women’s Equality Act.