As the calendar turns to 2024, New York employers should be aware of several new laws going into effect in the Empire State. As the new laws go into effect, businesses should take note of the potential implications the new laws have on businesses and employers should take proper action to revise current policies and procedures to ensure compliance.

Social Media Accounts Law

Applicants and employees often worry about their employers right to access and monitor their personal social media accounts. However, beginning in March of 2024 employees will be protected from disclosing their personal account information to their employers. A new bill, (A.836), amends the labor law by adding a new section 201-h to prohibit employers from requesting or requiring access to personal electronic communication accounts of prospective or current employees. The new law also prohibits employers from requesting or requiring an employee or applicant’s personal username, login information, or password for social media accounts as a condition of hiring, a condition of employment, or for use in disciplining an employee. Specifically, the law prohibits employers from requesting, requiring, or coercing employees and applicants to:

  • Divulge their username, passwords, and other personal information used to log into personal electronic accounts.
  • Force employees or applicants to access their personal account in front of the employer to potential employer.
  • Produce or show the employer photos, videos, posts, or other information on their personal accounts.

Though, like most laws, there is an exception to this rule. The exception applies to accounts provided by the employer, and which are used only for business purposes. But, even under this circumstance, the employer must provide the employee managing or accessing these accounts notice of the employer’s right to check and monitor the information. In addition, if the employer pays for (in whole or part) the electronic device used to access business and personal accounts, the employer may access accounts used for business purposes, but may not access personal accounts.

This law goes into effect on March 12, 2024.

The Definition of “Clerical Worker” to Change

S5572/A6796 amends New York’s Labor Law definition of “clerical and other worker" to include all employees not employed in a bona fide executive, administrative or professional capacity and whose earnings are in excess of $1,300.00 per week. The law also changes the minimum weekly earnings that a bona fide executive, administrative or professional employee must earn in order to be excluded from the category of "clerical or other worker". The new law increases the required wage amount from $900 to $1,300 per week. This means that executive, administrative and professional employees making $1,300 or less per week will now be eligible to pursue recovery of benefits or wage supplements from the New York Department of Labor. Prior to this new law, many of the employees in this category were excluded from pursuing their claims in this manner. Finally, the employees mentioned in this bill may not be subject to mandatory direct deposit.

This law will take effect on March 13, 2024.

Wage Theft Now May Be Prosecuted as Criminal Larceny

Senate Bill S2832A also impacts wage theft provisions in New York. The Wage Theft Accountability Act amends the penal law to include wage theft in the definition of larceny, which potentially makes nonpayment or underpayment of wages a felony. The New York Penal Code considers a person to have committed theft when “a person steals property and commits larceny when, with intent to deprive another of property, or to appropriate the same to himself or to a third person, he wrongfully takes, obtains, or withholds such property from an owner thereof.” N.Y. Penal Law §155.05. This new amendment expands the definition of property to include, “compensation for labor or services” and also specifically adds the crime of wage theft to be included in the definition of larceny.

This law became effective immediately upon its signature by Governor Horchul.

Interns Receive Expanded Protection

A7355/S7382 immediately went into law upon the Governor’s signature and amends the states Human Rights Law in regard to interns. Interns are now statutorily protected from gender expression and gender identity discrimination.

Restrictions on Captive Audience Meetings

Captive audience meetings are communications, whether written or verbal, that seek to convey an employer’s political or religious beliefs to employees. Bill S4982 prohibits employers from discriminating against employees who refuse to participate or listen to these communications. This changes New York Labor Law section 201-d, which provides the definition of political matters as “matters relating to elections for political office, political parties, legislation, regulation and the decision to support a political party or political, civic, community, fraternal, or labor organization.” Religious matters are defined as, “relating to religious affiliation and practice and the decision to join or support any religious organization.”

The law does not go so far as to ban “casual conversations” at work regarding political or religious topics, but employers must post employees rights to refuse to attend employer-sponsored “captive audiences” meetings.

This law took effect immediately upon the Governor’s signature.

Unemployment Benefits

In case you missed it, a new law regarding notice of eligibility for unemployment benefits went into effect on November 13, 2023. This bill requires employers to provide separated employees with written notice of their eligibility for retirement benefits. It amends Labor Code section 590 and in essence inserts existing Department of Labor guidance formally into the statute. This guidance provides that employers should provide written notice to all employees who have been terminated or had working hours reduced.

Employers must provide employees with the notice no more than five working days after the employee's termination date or reduction of the employee's working hours. In the same five-work-day period, Section 195(6) of the Labor Law continues to require an employer to "notify any employee terminated from employment, in writing, of the exact date of such termination, as well as the exact date of cancellation of employee benefits connected with such termination."

Moving Forward

The New York team of Wood, Smith, Henning & Berman is available to answer any and all questions you may have regarding these upcoming and recent changes in the law. Please do not hesitate to reach out to a member of our team if we can be of further assistance.

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