End of year vacations and holidays are fast approaching. Everyone is eager to see family and enjoy some much needed time away. It is easy to forget, however, that the ball drop in Times Square will not only ring in the New Year, it will also ring in various new and modified employment laws in several jurisdictions. December and January are often a hotbed of effective dates for new legal and regulatory changes, and this year is no exception. Now is a good time to review your handbook and other policies to ensure compliance with these various regulatory changes, before they go into effect this January.
For example, in New York, hospitality employers (including restaurants and bars) will see most of the tip credit typically applied to the minimum wages of tipped front-of-house employees evaporate. The tip credit minimum wage for food service employees in the hospitality industry is set to increase from $5.00 per hour up to $7.50 per hour come January 1, 2016. Moreover, beyond the hospitality industry, the regular minimum wage in New York will also increase to $9.00 an hour, in addition to higher minimum wages applicable to fast food employees ($10.50 in New York City, $9.75 in the rest of New York State). These minimum wage increases are not limited to New York alone, with several states and municipalities also implementing minimum wage increases as we approach 2016. Moreover, New York as well as many other states and municipalities also require any affected employees to receive new rate of pay notices and/or tip credit notices reflecting these minimum wage increases in accordance with federal, state, and local law.
In addition, numerous state and local discrimination laws, leave laws, and other employment-related laws will also go into effect January 1st. For example: California is expanding its child-related activities leave law to broaden what is considered covered child care and to include stepparents, foster parents, or those who are “in loco parentis” to a child. In Oregon, ban-the-box legislation goes into effect prohibiting questions on an employment application regarding an applicant’s criminal background. In New York, the “Women’s Equality Act” goes into effect a few weeks after the New Year, which includes several new laws that increase equal pay protections, the applicability of sex discrimination laws, and recovery of fees in sex discrimination lawsuits, in addition to additional protections against familial status discrimination and requiring accommodations of some pregnancy-related conditions.
These changes are just a small sampling of the numerous legal and regulatory changes across the country awaiting us in the New Year. Getting ahead of these policy shifts is necessary to avoid unneeded headaches or, god forbid, liability later on. Before you head off for your holiday vacation, make sure to review any legal changes coming soon to the jurisdictions in which you operate. It will provide you peace of mind once all the champagne has worn off on New Year’s Day.