Be Ready For New York State’s Paid Family Leave Law, Effective January 1, 2018

Employers with employees in New York must prepare for New York State’s Paid Family Leave Benefits Law (“PFL”), which will provide job-protected, insurance-based, paid family leave to employees.  PFL goes into effect shortly, on January 1, 2018.

Overview of PFL Benefits

Under PFL, eligible employees will be entitled to:

  • Paid time off for one of three qualifying reasons – Eligible employees will be entitled to a certain amount of time off, during which they will receive a certain percentage of their wages.  However, weekly wages payable under the PFL are capped at one-half of New York State’s Average Weekly Wage, which is currently $1,305.92 (half of which is $652.96).  The program will be fully implemented over a 4-year phase-in schedule:
    • Starting on January 1, 2018, eligible employees will be entitled to take 8 weeks of leave while receiving 50% of their average weekly wages.
    • Starting January 1, 2019, eligible employees will be entitled to take 10 weeks of leave while receiving 55% of their average weekly wages.
    • Starting on January 1, 2020, employees will still only be entitled to take 10 weeks of leave, but will be afforded 60% of their average weekly wages.
    • Finally, starting on January 1, 2021, employees will be entitled to take 12 weeks of leave while receiving 67% of their average weekly wages.
  • Reinstatement – Upon returning to work, eligible employees must be restored to the position they held before taking leave, or to a comparable position with comparable benefits and pay.

Covered Employers

  • Private employers with one or more covered employee will be required to provide PFL benefits.
  • Public employers may opt in.
  • Covered employers whose employees are represented by a union and whose collective bargaining agreement provides paid family leave need only provide PFL benefits if the collective bargaining agreement’s benefits are not as favorable as those under PFL.

Eligible Employees

  • Full-time employees (those with a regular schedule of 20 or more hours per week) become eligible for PFL benefits after working for 26 weeks.
  • Part-time employees (those with a regular schedule of less than 20 hours per week) become eligible for PFL benefits after working for 175 days.

Qualifying Reasons to take Family Leave under PFL

Eligible employees may receive PFL benefits in the following three instances:

  1. To bond with a new child (including newly adopted and foster children);
  2. To care for a close relative with a serious health condition;
    • Close relatives include spouses, domestic partners, children, parents, parents-in-law, grandparents, and grandchildren
    • A serious health condition is an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves a) inpatient care in a hospital, hospice, or residential health care facility; or b) continuing treatment or continuing supervision by a health care provider.
  3. To relieve family pressures created when a spouse, child, domestic partner or parent is on or has been called to active military duty, and the employee is eligible for time off under the military provisions of the federal Family Medical Leave Act.

Notably, an employee cannot receive PFL benefits to care for his or her own serious health condition or for his or her own qualifying military event.

Interplay with other Leave Benefits

  • Covered employers may permit employees to use sick or vacation leave for full pay, but may not require that employees use such leave.
  • Employees’ PFL leave must run concurrently with qualifying FMLA leave.  This means that employees cannot stack PFL and FMLA leave to take time that exceeds the leave entitlement under the PFL.  Employees cannot receive New York State disability benefits simultaneous with their receipt of PFL benefits.

Tips and Next  Steps for New York City Employers

  • Update the leave provisions of your company’s policies and/or handbooks – it’s required by the PFL!
  • Obtain paid family leave insurance coverage
  • Train your human resources personnel

For questions on compliance with this new law or other employment and hiring requirements, please contact Dina M. Mastellone, Esq., Chair of the firm’s Human Resources Training & Audit Programs Practice Group, at dmastellone@nullgenovaburns.com, or 973-533-0777.

Morgan Stanley Abandons Broker Industry Recruiting Pact

In a major blow to the Protocol for Broker Recruiting, which limited restrictive covenants in the broker industry and resulting litigation, according to Reuters (October 30, 2017), Morgan Stanley has decided to withdraw from the Protocol. Created in 2004, the Protocol is made up of thousands of registered representatives, with the stated goal of “furthering clients’ interests in privacy and freedom of choice in connection with the movement of their registered representatives.” The move by Morgan Stanley to leave the Protocol was apparently motivated in part, according to Reuters, by industry changes as the top brokers are increasingly leaving the large brokerages that are members of the Protocol to work for smaller independent brokerages, which are not members.

The impact of Morgan Stanley’s departure from the agreement is unknown, but the next question remains whether the other major Wall Street brokerages follow suit. Regardless, it appears that restrictive covenants in the brokerage industry will be making a comeback as will the resulting litigation that the Protocol was created to lessen. For our clients in the brokerage industry, including Registered Investment Advisors (“RIA”), restrictive covenants are likely to become a much more important part of employment agreements again, and hiring of rival brokers will require more diligence in terms of existing non-competes.

For questions about restrictive covenants in the brokerage industry, please contact John C. Petrella, Esq., Chair of the firm’s Employment Law & Litigation Practice Group, Partner Harris S. Freier, Esq. or Associate Christopher M. Kurek, Esq. at 973-533-0777. Please also sign-up for our free Labor and Employment Law Blog to keep up-to-date on the latest news and legal developments.

New York City’s Salary Inquiry Ban Starts October 31, 2017

Starting October 31, 2017, New York City employers will be prohibited from inquiring about a job applicant’s salary history, or from relying on that salary history in determining an applicant’s prospective pay, unless the applicant voluntarily offers the information.

What New York City Employers Cannot Do

Under the salary inquiry law, employers cannot, during an in-person interview that takes place in New York City, or in any circumstances where the impact will be felt in New York City:

  • Communicate any question or statement to a job applicant, the applicant’s current or former employer, or a current or former employee who worked with the applicant, to obtain the applicant’s salary history;
  • Search public records to obtain an applicant’s salary history; and/or
  • Rely on an applicant’s salary history when making an offer of employment or deciding compensation, unless the applicant voluntarily and without prompting disclosed it.

What New York City Employers Can Do

New York City employers may consider and verify a job applicant’s salary history if:

  • The job applicant discloses the information voluntarily and without prompting;
  • Law specifically authorizes the disclosure or verification of salary history;
  • The position’s salary is determined by procedures in a collective bargaining agreement;
  • The applicant is a current employee applying for an internal transfer or promotion; and/or
  • A background check for non-salary related information inadvertently discloses salary history, provided, however, that the employer does not rely on that inadvertently disclosed salary history in determining the job applicant’s prospective salary.

The Scope of One’s “Salary History”

  • “Salary history” means current or prior wages, benefits or other compensation.
  • It does not include objective measures of the applicant’s history of productivity. Employers may ask about sales performance or other objective indicators of performance like volume or value, but cannot ask about how these figures translated into wages.
  • Employers may also discuss and consider the applicant’s salary and benefits expectations, including the amount of unvested equity and deferred compensation an applicant would forfeit from his or her current employer.

Consequences of Violating New York City’s Salary Inquiry Ban

The New York City Commission on Human Rights will investigate complaints and enforce the new law by imposing fines of up to $125,000 for unintentional violations, and up to $250,000 for intentional violations.

Tips and Next  Steps for New York City Employers

  • Update Your Company Policies, Job Application Materials, and Interview Guides
  • It is not enough to add a disclaimer that individuals in New York City or applying for jobs located in New York City need not answer questions related to salary history.
  • Develop a process for documenting when an applicant voluntarily discloses his/her salary history.
  • Train your Recruiting and Hiring Personnel
  • Develop a process for documenting the reasons for differentials in pay.

For questions on compliance with this new law or other employment and hiring requirements, please contact Dina M. Mastellone, Esq., Chair of the firm’s Human Resource Training & Audit Practice Group, at dmastellone@nullgenovaburns.com, or 973-533-0777.

Mr. Martinez (Maybe) Goes to Washington: NJ Chief Administrator to be Appointed by President Trump

Raymond Martinez, the current Chair and Chief Administrator of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (“MVC”), is to be appointed by President Trump as the next Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (“FMCSA”). The FMCSA is a separate administration within the U.S. Department of Transportation and is tasked primarily with ensuring safety in motor carrier operations through strong safety regulation enforcement.

Mr. Martinez has served under Governor Christie since 2010. In his role as Chief Administrator, Mr. Martinez directs 2,400 employees at 71 MVC locations across New Jersey. He also serves as Chairman of the Motor Vehicle Commission Board, a policy-making body comprised of government and public members. Governor Christie appointed Mr. Martinez as an Executive Branch Member of the State Planning Commission, where he is called upon to represent state government in the oversight of environmental protection issues, land use, development and redevelopment.  In 2015, Mr. Martinez was selected by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (“AAMVA”) to serve as a member of its International Board of Directors.

Mr. Martinez has been active in the public arena for more than twenty years. From 2005 to 2009, he served as the Deputy U.S. Chief of Protocol and Diplomatic Affairs for the U.S. Department of State, and the White House under President George W. Bush. As such, Mr. Martinez was responsible for managing five operational divisions: Diplomatic Affairs, Foreign Visits, Ceremonial Events, Blair House, and Administration. Between 2000 and 2005, Mr. Martinez served as the Commissioner for the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles as well as Assistant General Counsel for the Long Island Power Authority. During President Reagan’s administration, he served as Deputy Director for Scheduling and Advance for First Lady Nancy Reagan. He also held roles in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, within the New York State Senate, and as a private attorney.

For questions about employment issues involving the trucking and logistics industries, please contact John Vreeland, Esq., Chair of the Transportation, Trucking & Logistics Group and Partner in the Labor Law Practice Group at jvreeland@nullgenovaburns.com or (973) 535-7118. Please also sign-up for our free Labor & Employment Law Blog at www.labor-law-blog.com to keep up-to-date on the latest news and legal developments effecting your workforce.

President Ends DACA Program, Gives Congress Six Month Deadline to Pass Long-Term Fix for Dreamers

On September 5 U.S. Attorney General Sessions announced that the Administration will end the Obama Administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA. The program has been in effect since mid-2012 and has allowed individuals brought to the U.S. as children or teens before 2007 to apply for work permits and avoid deportation. To be eligible to apply for DACA, an individual had to be under age 16 upon entry into the U.S. and no older than 31 as of June 15, 2012, must have lived in the U.S. continuously since 2007, either be enrolled in high school or college, or already have a diploma or degree, and have no felony criminal convictions, no significant misdemeanor convictions, no more than three other misdemeanor convictions, and not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety. If granted deferred action, the individual’s deportation would be deferred and received a work permit (EAD) valid for two years and renewable for additional two-year periods. These individuals are known popularly as dreamers.

Under the Trump administration program, anyone whose DACA status is set to expire by no later than March 5, 2018 will be able to apply for a final two-year permit by October 5, 2017, but all DACA program beneficiaries whose permits expire after March 5, 2018 are ineligible for a renewal. No new DACA applications will be processed. Any individual who has an EAD though the DACA program has no obligation to tell his or her employer that it is a DACA EAD. An employee whose EAD expires and is not renewable will be ineligible to work legally in the U.S. It is crucial that employers know when their employees’ EADs expire. Although there are indications that Congressional Democrats and President Trump are nearing a deal to save the DACA program, the official stance of the Administration is that Congress has six months to pass legislation to save the program. If Congress does not pass legislation by early March 2018, then DACA program enrollees whose EADs expire in the meantime will be subject to deportation.

For an employer that knows or believes it has employees with work permits through DACA, there is currently little they can do after the Attorney General’s announcement, other than advising these employees who are eligible to renew their EADs to do so by October 5, 2017. Employers cannot preemptively discharge these employees before their EADs expire. Doing so may expose the employer to claims of national origin discrimination. An employee whose EAD expires must be removed from the employer’s active payroll. Employers that refuse to release the employees who are not authorized to work in the U.S. can be liable for significant monetary penalties.

For questions about DACA and how it could affect your employees and your business, contact Patrick W. McGovern, Esq., Partner in the firm’s Immigration Law Practice Group, at pmcgovern@nullgenovaburns.com, or by phone at 973-535-7129.

Back to the Drawing Board for EEOC Wellness Program Rules

On August 22 the U.S. District Court in D.C. granted summary judgment to the AARP which challenged the EEOC’s rules governing employer wellness programs. The rules allow an employer to offer or impose on an employee financial incentives or financial penalties depending on participation in an employer wellness program. The Court chose not to vacate the EEOC’s rules for the time being, but instructed the EEOC to explain its rationale for setting a 30% maximum on the incentive or penalty, which would be applied to the employee‘s premium cost,  to determine whether disclosure of the employee’s personal medical information is voluntary, instead of determining that any employer wellness program requiring disclosure of personal medical information is involuntary and therefore unlawful. AARP v. U.S. EEOC, (D.D.C. Aug. 22, 2017).

Under ACA, health insurance plans may lawfully offer an incentive of up to 30% of the cost of coverage, in exchange for the employee’s participation in a health-contingent wellness program. These employer-sponsored wellness programs often involve the collection of personal medical information, which implicates substantive protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), both enforced by the EEOC.

Both the ADA and GINA permit employers to collect personal medical information as part of a wellness program if the employee provides the information voluntarily. In May 2016, the EEOC issued an ADA rule stating that imposing a penalty or offering an incentive capped at 30% of the cost of self-only coverage that requires disclosure of ADA-protected information, does not render participation in the wellness program involuntary. Similarly, the EEOC issued a GINA rule allowing employers to offer the same 30% incentives for disclosure of a spouse’s medical information in the course of wellness program participation.

In 2016 AARP sought a preliminary injunction prohibiting enforcement of the ADA and GINA rules which became effective January 1, 2017. The EEOC’s arguments in opposition to the injunction were:

  • The 30% incentive level is in harmony with the ACA incentive level.
  • The 30% incentive level is a reasonable interpretation of “voluntary” based on current insurance rates.
  • The EEOC relied on comments submitted by the American Heart Association endorsing the 30% incentive level.

The Court determined that the EEOC provided inadequate explanation for determining that a 30% penalty or incentive is an appropriate measure of voluntariness. The Court remanded the rules to the EEOC but without vacating them to avoid disrupting current wellness programs. The Court ordered the EEOC to report back to the Court by September 21, 2017.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss how this decision or the EEOC’s wellness program rules affect you or your business, please contact Patrick W. McGovern, Esq., Partner in the Firm’s Labor Law Practice Group  at 973-535-7129 or pmcgovern@nullgenovaburns.com, Firm Counsel Gina M. Schneider, Esq. at 973-535-7134 or gmschneider@nullgenovaburns.com, or Firm Associate Ryann M. Aaron, Esq. at 973-387-7812 or raaron@nullgenovaburns.com.

New Jersey Supreme Court Says Salary Step Increments are Negotiable, but Avoids Dynamic Status Quo Issue

In a highly anticipated decision, the New Jersey Supreme Court held that the issue of salary step increments is a mandatorily negotiable term and condition of employment.  However, the Court did not decide whether New Jersey’s Public Employment Relations Commission was correct to adopt the static status quo doctrine in lieu of the dynamic status quo doctrine.  Instead, the Court determined that the express terms of the parties’ expired CNAs required the public employer at issue to advance employees along those CNAs’ salary step guides, even after those CNAs expired.

The issues presented to the Supreme Court originated in the cases of In re County of Atlantic and In re Township of Bridgewater.  In County of Atlantic, PERC determined that, given the current landscape, the static status quo doctrine would advance labor negotiations between New Jersey’s public employers and employees better than the dynamic status quo doctrine, which PERC previously followed.  Under the static status quo doctrine, employees do not advance along a contract’s salary step guide between the time that the contract expires and before a subsequent contract is executed, whereas the opposite is true under the dynamic status quo doctrine.  On the heels of County of Atlantic, PERC decided Township of Bridgewater, in which it concluded that the issue of salary step increases after contract expiration is not a term and condition of employment and therefore not mandatorily negotiable.  On appeal, New Jersey’s Appellate Division reversed PERC.  The Appellate Division found that PERC was not authorized to depart from the dynamic status quo doctrine in the manner that it did, and that post-contract step increases are terms and conditions of employment that cannot be terminated unilaterally.

Ultimately, the Supreme Court affirmed the Appellate Division’s decision on “other grounds.” Nevertheless, the Supreme Court undermined PERC’s Bridgewater decision, when the Court concluded that the issue of salary step increments is a mandatorily negotiable term and condition of employment because that issue “is part and parcel to an employee’s compensation for any particular year.” However, because the Supreme Court’s decision rested upon specific contract language, the Court did not decide the issue of which status quo doctrine is appropriate. Nevertheless, the Court suggested that a contract that is silent with respect to the impact of contract expiration on step increases may require “careful consideration of past practices, custom and the viability of the dynamic status quo doctrine.” Accordingly, the Supreme Court advised that “parties would be wise to include explicit language indicating whether a salary guide will continue beyond the contract’s expiration dates.”

For more information about the Supreme Court’s decision and how it may impact your public entity’s labor contract negotiations, please contact James J. McGovern, III, Chair of the firm’s Labor Law Practice Group, at jmcovern@nullgenovaburns.com or 973-535-7122, or Joseph M. Hannon, Counsel in the firm’s Labor Law Practice Group, at jhannon@nullgenovaburns.com or 973-535-7105. Please also sign-up for our free Labor & Employment Law Blog at www.labor-law-blog.com to keep up-to-date on the latest news and legal developments affecting your workforce.

Christie Vetoes Expansion of New Jersey Family Leave & Increased Minimum Wage

On July 21, 2017, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie conditionally vetoed two bills that would have expanded New Jersey’s pioneering paid Family Leave Act and raised minimum wage for certain transportation center service workers.  Under the New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJFLA), which applies to New Jersey companies with 50 or more employees, workers are eligible to receive up to 12 weeks of continuous leave during a given 24-month period to care for a newly born or adopted child, parent, a child under 18, spouse, or civil union partner who has a serious health condition requiring in-patient care, continuing medical treatment or medical supervision.  The leave is partially paid, and eligible employees can generally receive up to $633 per week.

The Bill (A4927) would have extended the NJFLA’s coverage to employers with 20 or more employees and expanded the definition of “family member” to include siblings, grandparents, grandchildren and parents-in-law.  Moreover, the Bill would have doubled the maximum number of weeks of family temporary disability leave benefits from 6 weeks to 12 weeks, increased available intermittent leave from 42 days to 84 days, and raised the weekly cap on paid benefits to $932, depending on the claimant’s income.

Governor Christie denounced the Bill’s supporters as disregarding the increased cost to taxpayers and the potentially adverse impact the bill would have on small businesses in New Jersey.

The minimum wage bill (A4870) would have significantly raised New Jersey’s minimum wage for employees at Newark Liberty International Airport, Newark Penn Station, and the Hoboken Terminal, from $10.10 to $17.98 per hour.  Incidentally, Christie vetoed a bill last year that would have raised New Jersey’s minimum wage from its current $8.44 to $15.00 per hour.  The New Jersey Business & Industry Association, considering the vetoes to be a victory to New Jersey employers, stated that the minimum wage bill would have set “a terrible precedent by circumventing the collective bargaining process and imposing backdoor wage and benefit increases by statute.”

For more information on these vetoes and current laws regarding family leave, minimum wage, or other applicable leave laws, please contact John C. Petrella, Esq., Chair of the firm’s Employment Litigation Practice Group, at jpetrella@nullnullgenovaburns.com, or Dina M. Mastellone, Esq., Chair of the firm’s Human Resources Practice Group, at dmastellone@nullnullgenovaburns.com, or 973-533-0777.

September 18 Deadline Set By U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for Employers to Use Revised Form I-9

Currently, every employer that recruits, hires, or refers employees for a fee in the U.S. is required to complete the Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification process within three days of a new employee’s hiring.  On July 17 the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services approved a revised version of Form I-9.

The revised Form I-9 changes the prior form by, among other things, adding Consular Reports of Birth Abroad to the List of Acceptable Documents. Two other clarifications relate to the timing of completion. First, Section 1 of Form I-9 must be completed no later than the first day of employment, as opposed to a previous command that it must be completed “no later than the end of the first day of employment.” Second, persons employed for fewer than three days must present their original I-9 documentation to the employer no later than the first day of employment. The employer must still complete its review of the employee’s employment eligibility documentation within three business days of hiring.

No later than September 18, 2017, all U.S. employers must use the new Form 1-9.  Employers may continue using the prior Form I-9 through September 17, 2017 but should prepare to modify their hiring process to include the revised Form I-9.  Alternatively, employers may choose to use the new Form I-9 right away.  For any existing Form I-9s, employers must continue to comply with the existing separate filing and document retention rules.

The new Form I-9, its instructions, supplements, and translations are available for download here.

For any questions on the new Form I-9 and the I-9 employment eligibility verification process, contact Patrick W. McGovern, Esq., Partner in the firm’s Labor Law Practice Group, at pmcgovern@nullgenovaburns.com, or by phone at 973-535-7129.

Hawaii Court Enjoins Trump Travel Ban For Excluding Non-Immediate Family Members of US Persons and DHS-Approved Refugees

In June the Supreme Court enforced temporarily President Trump’s travel ban to the extent it excludes persons without a “bona fide relationship” to a person or entity in the U.S. The Court expressly identified wives and mothers-in-law as persons who have a bona fide family relationship to a person in the U.S.  Following the Court’s decision, the Trump administration interpreted “bona fide relationship” narrowly, to include only fiancés, spouses, children, parents and siblings of the U.S. person. On July 13 a federal judge in Hawaii loosened the travel ban by entering a nationwide injunction that orders the Trump administration to exempt from the ban grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, nieces, nephews, and cousins of persons in the U.S. U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson criticized the Administration’s narrow definition of bona fide family relationship as “the antithesis of common sense,” which “dictates that close family members be defined to include grandparents.”

Additionally, Judge Watson enjoined enforcement of the ban to the extent it excludes from entry refugees who have formal assurance from a U.S. resettlement agency. Judge Watson reasoned that such assurance “meets each of the Supreme Court’s touchstones: it is formal, it is a documented contract, it is binding, it triggers responsibilities and obligations, including compensation, it is issued specific to an individual refugee only when that refugee has been approved for entry by the Department of Homeland Security, and it is issued in the ordinary course, and historically has been for decades…Bona fide does not get any more bona fide than that.”

Immediately, the Justice Department appealed Judge Watson’s ruling to the Ninth Circuit and simultaneously filed motion papers with the Supreme Court requesting clarification. In its motion, the Justice Department argues that Judge Watson’s interpretation of the travel ban “empties the Court’s decision of meaning,” because it includes “not just ‘close’ family members, but virtually all family members…Treating all of these relationships as ‘close familial relationship[s]’ reads the term ‘close’ out of the Court’s decision.” The Justice Department asked the Court to stay the effective date of the Hawaii court’s order until the Court resolved the motion to clarify the Court’s June ruling. The Justice Department’s motion, which remains pending, may be viewed here.

If you would like to discuss the implications of the travel ban and the various court decisions affecting the ban for your employees, your hiring plans, and your business, please contact Patrick W. McGovern, Esq., Partner in the Firm’s Immigration Law Practice at 973-535-7129 or at pmcgovern@nullgenovaburns.com.