There is much for management in the juvenile products industry to keep front of mind— federal, state and local regulations; domestic and international economic conditions; competition and pricing; supplier, vendor or distributor disruption; cybersecurity threats; access to capital; environmental issues; technological innovation; and growth strategies, among other things. At the top of that list should also be labor and employment laws that impact operations. After all, juvenile products manufacturers are, first and foremost, employers. With that being said, this overview of new workplace requirements and restrictions that have recently become effective in California and New York should prove helpful.
Wage and Hour Changes (CA and NY)
The minimum wage paid by California employers with 25 employees or less has increased to $10.50 per hour. Employers in California with 26 employees or more must pay a minimum hourly rate of $11.
Likewise, the minimum salary to be deemed an exempt employee in California has also moved higher—$45,760, assuming the employer has 26 employees or more. For California businesses with 25 employees or less, the minimum salary to be deemed an exempt employee remains $43,680 for another year.
The minimum hourly wage in New York City is now $12 for businesses with 10 employees or less, and $13 for businesses with 11 or more employees. The minimum wage in Westchester County and Long Island is $11, and employers in all other areas of the Empire State must pay no less than $10.40 an hour.
The elevated minimum weekly salaries to qualify for the white-collar exemptions to New York's overtime laws are $900 for businesses in New York City with 10 employees or less; $975 for Big Apple businesses with 11 or more employees; $825 in Long Island and Westchester County; and $780 in all remaining counties.
Because aggrieved employees are primed to sue their employees for failure to pay the required minimum wage or overtime, the importance of complying with these wage and hour laws cannot be overstated.
Salary Inquiry Ban (CA and NY)
All California and New York City employers, public and private, are prohibited from inquiring—directly or through an agent (e.g., recruiters and executive search firms)—about the compensation and benefits history of job applicants. Further, such salary information cannot be relied upon by employers in determining whether to extend job offers to applicants or the amount applicants should be paid. However, employers may consider salary history if voluntarily disclosed without prompting. In addition, employers will be required to provide pay scale information to applicants when requested. Of note, while the law in NYC forbids all pre-employment inquiries regarding an applicant's current or prior salary, it permits an employer to ask about a prospect's compensation expectations.
Ban the Box Law (CA)
Unless a limited exception applies, employers in California with five employees or more may not ask applicants about their criminal histories prior to a conditional offer of employment. If an employer elects not to employ an applicant because of a criminal conviction, written notification to that effect must be provided to the applicant. Note that New York already has similar prohibitions on such criminal history inquiries.
Paid Family Leave (CA and NY)
The weekly benefits extended to California employees on paid family have increased depending upon income levels. Employees now receive up to 70% of their usual salaries, with a specified maximum weekly benefit. Also, the current seven-day waiting period for assistance has been eliminated so that these increased benefits become payable immediately.
Parental leave rights (concerning a child’s birth, adoption or foster care placement) have expanded to apply to California employers with 20 to 49 employees. The rights conferred by this law are the same as under the Family and Medical Leave Act and the California Family Rights Act, and apply to employees with more than 12 months or 1,250 hours of service with their employer during the prior 12-month span.
All New York employers are required to provide employees with up to eight weeks of job-protected paid leave per year. The amount of paid leave will increase to 12 weeks per year by 2021. Employees who regularly work 20 hours or more each week are eligible for this benefit after completing 26 weeks of employment. Those with a regular work schedule of less than 20 hours per week qualify after completing 175 days on the job.
Eligible employees may take paid leave to (1) bond with a new child; (2) provide physical care for a serious health condition of a child, spouse, domestic partner, parent, grandchild or grandparent; or (3) address urgent needs when a spouse, child or parent is called to active military service. In any of these instances, employees will receive half of the average weekly wage they earned during their most recent eight weeks of employment or the state average weekly wage—whichever is less. Employers should note that this leave is not permitted for an employee's own illness.
The paid-leave law in New York is funded through small deductions from workers' pay, which are placed into an insurance fund earmarked for this benefit. These wage deductions could have started as early as July 1, 2017, and employers that have not yet made these deductions would be wise to do so immediately.
Immigration Rights (CA)
Employers in California may not voluntarily consent to workplace access by Immigration and Customs Enforcement without a judicial warrant, and they must provide workers with notice of certain immigration enforcement actions. The law also imposes new statutory penalties for violations.
Unlawful Retaliation (CA)
Employers in California may be required to allow employees to remain in their jobs during the pendency of retaliation and whistleblower claims. The law also eases an employee’s burden of proof for injunctive relief in such cases.
Sexual Harassment Training (CA)
Employers in California with 50 employees or more must provide at least two hours of sexual harassment training, which is to also cover harassment based on gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation.
Employer Takeaway (CA and NY)
In light of these new laws on the books, juvenile products manufacturers on both coasts (as noted) would be wise to do all of the following:
- conduct financial planning and budgeting in light of adjusted minimum-wage and exemption requirements (CA and NY);
- review application and hiring procedures to ensure compliance with the salary history prohibition (CA and NY) and “Ban the Box” law (CA);
- review and revise parental leave policies (CA and NY);
- review policies and procedures to ensure compliance with immigration rights law (CA);
- update training requirements to cover sexual harassment, including that based on gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation (CA);
- update employee handbooks as needed (CA and NY);
- as necessary, inform the workforce of the foregoing changes in the law (CA and NY); and
- seek advice and counsel from your labor and employment attorney should questions about these new requirements and restrictions arise (CA and NY).
This blog post is not offered as, and should not be relied on as, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice in specific situations.