Happy New Year!  As you move past the holidays and focus on 2014, we would like to take this opportunity to remind you of the new laws taking effect at the beginning of this year and your annual beginning of the year compliance obligations.

New York

As a reminder, effective December 31, 2013, the New York minimum wage increased from $7.25 per hour to $8.00 per hour.  Accordingly, New York employers should ensure that all employees’ wages meet the higher minimum wage.

Also, it is time to prepare the annual New York Wage Theft Prevention Act notices.  As many of you know, the New York Wage Theft Prevention Act requires employers to provide annual wage notices to employees between January 1st and February 1st.  The notice must include: (a) the employees rate(s) of pay, including the overtime rate, if any; (b) the basis of wage payment (e.g., hour, shift, day, piece, etc.); (c) the designated pay day; (d) any tip or meal allowances; (e) the employer’s name and any “doing business as” names; (f) the telephone number and physical address of the employer’s main office; and (g) the employer’s mailing address, if different.  The notice must be provided in the employee’s primary language, as identified by the employee.  Sample notices, including translations, may be found on the New York Department of Labor website.  Note that the notice must also be provided to new hires at the time of hire and within seven days of any change to the data in the notice that is not reflected on the employee’s pay stub.

In addition, effective January 30, 2014, 120 days after signing, the Administrative Code of the City of New York will explicitly prohibit discrimination in employment based on pregnancy, childbirth or a related medical condition.  This change in the law expands coverage beyond gender and disability to all pregnant employees, regardless of whether a pregnant employee’s condition qualifies as a disability under federal, state or local law.  The law requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant women for the purpose of ensuring and maintaining a healthy pregnancy without fear of negative job implications.  Such accommodations may include, but are not limited to, relieving a pregnant employee from standing for long hours, providing additional bathroom breaks, and assisting with manual labor.  An employer is not required, however, to provide a reasonable accommodation if it can establish that it would cause an undue hardship. The law also requires employers to give written notice to all new employees on their commencement date, and to all existing employees within 120 days of the effective date of the law.  Click here to view a copy of the notice recently published by the New York City Commission on Human Rights.  The notice is also available in six other languages on their website here.

Lastly, although a little further on the horizon, New York City employers should be aware that effective April 1, 2014, employers with 20 or more employees may be required to provide up to 40 hours of paid sick leave to employees who work more than 80 hours per year.  Employers with less than 20 employees may be required to provide at least 40 hours of unpaid, job-protected leave to employees who work more than 80 hours per year.  Under the new law, employees will be able to use sick leave for both their own illness or to care for an eligible family member.

New Jersey

Effective January 1, 2014, the minimum wage has also increased in New Jersey from $7.25 per hour to $8.25.  Accordingly, New Jersey employers should ensure that all employees’ wages meet the higher minimum wage.

In addition, beginning January 6, 2014, New Jersey employers with 50 or more employees must conspicuously post a gender equality notice in a location accessible to all employees in each of the employer’s New Jersey workplaces.  Employees hired before January 6, 2014 must be given a written copy of the notice by February 5, 2014 and employees hired on or after January 6, 2014 must be provided with a copy of the notice at the time of hire.  Thereafter, employers must provide copies annually.  Employers must also obtain and retain signed receipt forms from each employee acknowledging receipt of the notice and understanding of its terms.  A copy of the notice may be found on the New Jersey Department of Labor website.

Employers should also be aware that effective January 23, 2014, employers with 10 or more employees in Jersey City must provide paid sick time to any employee who works in Jersey City for at least 80 hours in a year.  Employers who employ less than 10 employees in Jersey City will be required to provide unpaid sick time to any employee who works in Jersey City for at least 80 hours in a year.  Whether paid or unpaid, eligible employees accrue one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours per year, beginning the first day of employment.  Employees may not, however, use any of their accrued sick time until after the 90th calendar day of employment.