NY Passes Landmark Minimum Wage and Paid Leave Laws

New York legislators and Governor Andrew Cuomo settled on a 2016-17 budget in a blockbuster late-night deal. The budget was bundled with both a minimum wage increase and a paid family leave mandate. The one-two punch delivers on two major initiatives prioritized by the governor earlier this year.

A Tiered Minimum Wage

Perhaps inspired by Oregon’s recent approach, state lawmakers opted for a regionalized, gradual minimum wage increase. Under the new legislation, the new hourly rate would be:

  • $15 for New York City by 2018.
  • $15 for Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester counties by 2021.
  • $12.50 for all other counties by 2021, after which the New York Department of Labor will evaluate further increases.

Effective December 31, the minimum wage will be raised annually until the above totals are met. In the event of a recession or economic downturn, the legislation gives the sitting governor the authority to postpone or alter a scheduled increase.

The news closes out an active week for minimum wage increases. On Thursday, the California legislature passed a measure raising his state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2022.

12 Weeks of Paid Family Leave

The budget also included a groundbreaking paid family leave law, already being called revolutionary. Under the program, New Yorkers will be eligible for up to 12 weeks of paid leave for caring for an infant, a family member, or to relieve pressure when a family member is called into military service. Both mothers and fathers are entitled to paid leave and small businesses are not exempt.

Under the law, both full-time and part-time workers are eligible after six months of employment. The program will be paid for through a new payroll deduction amounting to roughly a dollar a week. To mitigate any impact on employers, the rule is being phased in gradually:

  • Starting in 2018, employees will be eligible for up to 8 weeks of leave a year, paid at either 50 percent of their weekly wage or 50 percent of the statewide average, whichever is lower.
  • By 2021, employees will be eligible for 12 weeks of leave a year, paid at 67 percent of their weekly wage or 67 percent of the statewide average.

The program’s realization serves a major coup for state Democrats and the governor, who sought to move on paid leave this year. While the GOP-controlled senate had quashed past proposals, widespread support among constituents likely tempered opposition this time around. A recent poll found that 80 percent of New Yorkers—including two thirds of state Republicans—favor a paid family leave program.

The Namely team will continue to monitor these historic laws as they come closer to implementation.

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