Labor & HR Committee Update
January 10, 2013
Staff Contact: Frank Kerbein
Governor Cuomo’s State of the State Address
HR related issues were a major component of yesterday’s State of the State address.
Citing the annual costs of gasoline, electricity, auto insurance, groceries, child care and housing and that 19 other states have minimum wage levels higher than New York’s, the Governor stated that a minimum wage of $8.75 per hour is more in line with the state’s cost of living and he will propose it.
Playing a video that stated among other things that women will earn $500,000 less than men over their lifetimes, the Governor introduced a 10 Point Women’s Equality Act.
- Point 1 calls for passage of pay equity legislation which would increase the amount of liquidated damages to 300% of back wages due up from the current 100%; tightening pay differential exception justifications to situations based on performance and consistent with business necessity and not based on gender; and prohibiting employers from terminating employees for sharing pay information.
- Point 2 addresses sexual harassment in the workplace and the Governor would change the current human rights law provision that excludes small employers of less than four employees from the law. His proposal will allow employees of any size business to file a sexual discrimination complaint. He is also proposing to allow the payment of attorney’s fees to litigants in successful employment discrimination cases.
- Point 5 calls for an end to family status discrimination and proposes prohibiting employers from denying work and promotions to employees because they have children.
- Point 8 calls for ending pregnancy discrimination in the workplace once and for all. The Governor proposes requiring accommodation in the workplace for pregnancy that does not involve a disabling condition but rather an impairment.
No other details were provided. We’ll wait for the actual bill introduction and take it from there.
The Governor proposes reforming the unemployment insurance system to increase benefits while providing employers with more predictability by:
- Paying off the state’s $3.5 billion UI fund debt (through increased UI taxes) by 2016, saving $180 million in interest assessments, and re-building solvency in the trust fund and creating future reserves.
- Decreasing costs to employers by approximately $400 million through reforms addressing work searches and reducing fraud, and protecting employers from inappropriate UI account charges.
No details on the UI benefit increase proposal was mentioned.
The Governor will introduce legislation to reduce the cost and improve the administration of the workers’ compensation system by:
- Eliminating unnecessary friction in the system.
- Resolving insolvent Group Self-Insurance Trust (“GSIT”) issues through a bonding program to help defaulted and inactive trusts purchase assumption of liability policies and settle employer liability.
- Combining current five WCB assessments into a single assessment.
- Promoting system-wide transparency, efficiency, equity, and consistency.
The Governor projects that the proposals to reform the Workers’ Compensation and Unemployment Insurance programs will result in $1.3 billion in savings to businesses. We’ll see.
As these proposals develop, we’ll keep you posted.