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Execs get the low-down on labor law changes

Irv Miljoner of the U.S. Labor Department on

Irv Miljoner of the U.S. Labor Department on Long Island speaks about new federal overtime rules at Adelphi University on Thursday, June 9, 2016. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Educating companies about labor laws is as important as enforcing them, the head of the U.S. Labor Department on Long Island said during a workplace seminar at Adelphi University in Garden City Thursday.

“More companies are brought into compliance from events like this, as opposed to actual audits and investigations,” Irv Miljoner told 75 executives and employment lawyers at the breakfast meeting hosted by Farmingdale-based Alcott HR, a human-resource services company. But he said enforcement plays a key role in discouraging egregious wage violations such as restaurants paying workers as little as $2 an hour.

The new white-collar regulations that take effect Dec. 1 have been mischaracterized in the media as an “overtime rule,” Miljoner said. The measure raises the minimum salary that overtime-exempt managers have to be paid from $455 to $913 a week. That minimum has changed just once since the 1970s, and that was in 2004, he said.

Dawn Davidson Drantch, Alcott’s corporate counsel, pointed out some key differences between New York’s pending Paid Family Leave Benefits Law, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2018, and the longtime federal Family and Medical Leave Act, under which eligible workers in New York currently apply for a workplace leave for family medical emergencies. The New York leave will be paid and will apply to all companies, no matter their size. The FMLA, on the other hand, is unpaid and applies to companies with at least 50 employees.

The state policy, when fully phased in by 2021, will grant eligible employees up to 12 weeks of paid time off a year at 67 percent of their weekly pay, or no more than 67 percent of the average state weekly wage.

Just as with short-term disability benefits, the state will pay for the family leave policy by deducting what she said has been described as a “minimal” weekly payroll tax from employees. She said the amounts mentioned have ranged from 60 cents to $1.

“While they say there is no cost to employers, there really is a cost to employers because the employers are going to have to figure out, particularly the smaller ones, how to cover when someone is out on required leave,” Davidson Drantch said.

Louis Basso, Alcott’s co-founder and president, said his firm hosted the event to help local executives better understand the new regulations.

“Helping organizations comply with changing workplace legislation and regulations is part of our broader mission,” Basso said.

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