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Quick and Easy Guide to Labor & Employment Law: New York

This state-specific guide covers labor and employment case law, statutes, rules, and regulations that HR professionals and clients often encounter or have questions about in New York.

At-Will Employment

New York is an at-will employment state, meaning that either the employee or employer may terminate an employment arrangement at any time so long as the termination is not contrary to law. Murphy v. American Home Prod, 58 N.Y.2d 293, 461 N.Y.S.2d 232, 448 N.E.2d 86 (N.Y. 1983).

Exceptions to the at-will employment presumption are found when there are constitutional, statutory and express contract violations. Terminations that violate public policy have been found when an employee reports criminal activity in the workplace. See Mulder v. Donaldson, Lufkin, 208 A.D.2d 301, 623 N.Y.S.2d 560, 564 (N.Y. App. Div. 1995).

Right to Work Laws

In New York, union membership may be required for employees whose compensation and benefits are negotiated on behalf of all employees by a union.

Immigration Verification

New York places no additional employment verification procedures on employers beyond Federal I-9 compliance. There is no requirement to use E-Verify under New York state laws.

Drug Testing

There is no law in New York governing pre-employment drug and alcohol testing or employment drug and alcohol testing, except that employers may not test most workers for marijuana or cannabis as of March 2021.

Jury Duty Leave

In New York, an employee who is summoned to serve as a juror and notifies his employer prior to jury duty service shall not be penalized or discharged for taking a leave of absence from his employment duties. An employer who employs more than ten employees may not withhold the first $40 of an employee's wages during the first three days of jury duty. N.Y. Jud. Law § 519 (McKinney 2021).

Voting Leave

In New York, an employee may take off up to two hours without loss of pay to exercise his right to vote. N.Y. Elec. Law § 3-110 (McKinney 2021).

Parental Leave

Full time employees who work at least 20 hours per week are eligible for paid family leave if they have been employed for 26 or more consecutive weeks. Eligible employees may take up to 12 weeks of parental leave per calendar year. An employee may use paid family leave benefits to bond with the employee's child during the first 12 months after the child's birth or adoption. An employee may also use paid leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition. N.Y. Workers' Comp. Law § § 200-239 (McKinney 2021).

Smoking Laws

New York law prohibits smoking and vaping indoors at the workplace. N.Y. Pub. Health Law § 1399-o (McKinney 2021).

Break Time to Express Milk

New York employers shall provide reasonable unpaid break time or paid break time each day to allow an employee to express breast milk. The employer shall make reasonable efforts to provide an area in the workplace, or within close proximity to the work area, where an employee can express milk privately. N.Y. Lab. Law § 206-c (McKinney 2021).

Meal Breaks

New York's laws on meal and rest breaks for non-factory employees are broken down into the following categories:

  • An employee who works a shift of more than six hours that extends over the noonday meal period (between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.) must be given 30 minutes off during that time period.
     
  • An employee who works more than six hours of a shift that starts between 1:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. must be given a meal period of no less than 45 minutes midway between the beginning and end of the shift.
     
  • An employee wo starts work before 11:00 a.m. and continues to work past 7:00 p.m. must be given an additional meal period of at least 20 minutes between 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.

Factory employees must be given a 60-minute meal break for the noonday meal period. N.Y. Lab. Law § 162 (McKinney 2021).

Minimum Wage

The basic minimum hourly wage rate for all employees, except janitors in residential buildings, in New York is established as follows:

  • In New York City, large employers of 11 or more employees are required to pay $15 per hour.
     
  • In New York City, small employers of 10 or fewer employees are required to pay $15 per hour.
     
  • In Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties
    • The minimum wage is currently $14 per hour. Effective December 31, 2021, the minimum wage will be set at no less than $15 per hour.
       
  • In the remainder of the state of New York, effective December 31, 2020, the minimum wage must be set at no less than $12.50 per hour.
     
  • Minimum wage for fast food employees in
    • New York City are set at $15 per hour
    • Areas outside of New York City are set at $15 per hour effective July 1, 2021.

N.Y. Comp. Codes R. & Regs. tit. 12, § 146-1.2 (2021).

New York law addressing tips and tip credits may be found here N.Y. Comp. Codes R. & Regs. tit. 12, § 141-1.3 (2021).

In New York, if a higher wage is established by Federal law pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 206, such wage shall apply.

Overtime

Provisions governing overtime pay can be found in the New York Minimum Wage Act. Generally, if an employee works more than 40 hours in a week, he or she must be compensated at a rate of one and one-half times the regular rate of pay at which he or she is employed. This does not apply to agricultural employees.

Wage and Recordkeeping

Every employer shall make and keep for a period of not less than six years accurate detailed payroll records including, all notices as required under statute. N.Y. Lab. Law § 195 (e)(4) (McKinney 2021).

Final Payments

New York law states that an employer shall the wages not later than the regular pay day for the pay period during which the termination occurred. N.Y. Lab. Law § 191(3) (McKinney 2021).

Unemployment Insurance

Unemployment insurance benefits provide income to individuals who have lost work through no fault of their own. The benefits are intended to partially offset the loss of wages while an unemployed worker searches for suitable work or until an employer can recall the employee to work. Nothing is deducted from the employee's wages to pay for this coverage. Unemployment benefits are administered by the New York Department of Labor, and additional information regarding the benefits may be accessed at www.ny.gov/services/unemployment-0.

Workers' Compensation

The New York Workers' Compensation Law, N.Y. Workers' comp. Law § 1 et. seq (McKinney 2021), applies to most employers in New York, including employers of domestic and agricultural workers. Employees who suffer injuries and/or occupational diseases arising out of and in the course of their employment may be eligible to receive several types of benefits under the Law. Under the Law, a workplace injury must be reported within 30 days to the employer; failing to timely report an injury may result in a denial of benefits.

The Law is administered by the New York Workers' Compensation Board, and additional information regarding the Act may be accessed at www.wcb.ny.gov/content/main/Workers/lp_workers-comp.jsp. Finally, unlike some states, New York does not recognize a private cause of action for retaliation under the Law.

Child Labor

New York has one of the strictest child labor laws in the country. The minimum age for employment under New York state law is 14 and no minor under the age of 18 is permitted to work while school is in session unless the minor has special permission and a certificate of satisfactory academic standing from a school. There are restrictions for places of work dealing with minors, as well as restrictions on the hours of the day the minor may work. The laws may be found at dol.ny.gov/hours-work-minors.

Gun Laws

New York does not have a specific law that restricts an employer from prohibiting employees from firearm possession in the workplace. Employers are therefore free to implement policies restricting employee possession of firearms at work, including in company parking lots. 

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Guide last updated July 2021.

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