An Employment Law Catch-Up to Distract You from Holiday Preparations

We know this time of year is typically spent catching up on work, getting in those extra reps at the gym, or maybe even getting ahead of your holiday shopping. Let us help you catch up on one more thing: new employment laws going into effect very soon! Just like how the holiday season sneaks up on us, New York City’s artificial intelligence law and Philadelphia’s commuter benefits ordinance snuck up on us too. Before we get to those, let’s discuss New York State’s lawful absence law, which was recently signed into law.

New York Passes Lawful Absence Law

On November 21, 2022, Governor Hochul signed into law an amendment to New York State Labor Law Section 215, prohibiting employers from disciplining, threatening, discriminating against, firing, or retaliating against employees who use “legally protected absences”. The law goes into effect on February 19, 2023. In addition to including protections for “legally protected absences”, the law expands on the definition of threatening, penalizing, discriminating, or retaliating, to include the maintenance of what’s commonly referred to as a “no fault” attendance policy, where an employee is disciplined for taking off from work, regardless of the reason for the absence. In terms of what’s considered a “lawful” absence, there’s still no clear definition but we’d guess that it’ll be construed broadly enough to cover any absences covered by federal, state, and local leave laws (think: sick leave, parental leave, jury duty, etc. – and not lying about sick leave to watch the World Cup).

Violations of the new law will expose employers to a private cause of action for damages, as well as $10,000 in penalties for first-time violations, and up to $20,000 for all other violations. So that begs the question – are your attendance policies fair, up-to-date, and compliant?

New York City’s Artificial Intelligence Law Goes Into Effect January 1, 2023

 Thanks to ChatGPT, this is likely the least interesting AI news of the week … but remember last Summer when we discussed artificial intelligence employment practices, and the effective date for New York City’s new artificial intelligence law seemed so far away? The time is here, so here’s a quick primer. As of January 1, 2023, employers will no longer be able to use automated tools to screen candidates unless those tools undergo an independent bias audit within one year of their use. If they do, employers must also: (1) update their websites to include a public notice with the results of the most recent audit report and the distribution date of the tool; (2) provide candidates with advanced notice that the employers will use an automated screening tool; (3) disclose the factors that the tool will use; and, (4) allow candidates to request an alternative selection process. As if finding talent and hiring wasn’t hard enough . . .

Employers are further required to be transparent with respect to the data collected by the automated process, the source of the data, and the applicable retention policy for that data. Employers can expect fines ranging from $500 to $1,500 per violation. One day we’ll have some more employer-friendly updates for you, one day.

Philly’s Commuter Benefit Program Goes Into Effect December 31, 2022

 As another reminder, starting December 31, 2022, Philadelphia employers with 50 or more employees will be required to provide commuter benefits to employees who have worked an average of at least 30 hours per week over the past 12 months. Employers must provide: (1) a transportation fringe benefit plan that complies with Internal Revenue Code Section 132(f), under which a covered employee may voluntarily elect pre-tax payroll deductions for qualified transportation expenses; (2) an employer-paid benefit where the employer pays for an employee’s mass transit expenses; or (3) any combination of the two.

If you have 50 or more employees, please make sure you have a compliant commuter benefits policy in place or you risk exposure to fines upward of $150 to $300 per day of non-compliance.

Shameless Plug (Two Weeks in a Row!): Associate Laura Garcia Presents to Small Business Bonding Readiness Assistance Program Students

One of the reasons we love what we do is the opportunities we get to help out local business owners. Our associate Laura Garcia recently volunteered with the Small Business Bonding Readiness Assistance Program (“SBBRAP”) to teach two classes on properly structuring businesses and contracts. As of May 2022, 105 small, minority, and women-owned businesses have graduated from the SBBRAP and 50 of them have qualified for a combined total of $40M in government contracts. Thank you to the SBBRAP team for having us! And thanks to Laura for sharing her knowledge with this awesome group.

As always, if you’ve got questions, you know we’ve (until we’re apparently all replaced by robots) got answers.

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