2020 will see some significant changes to New York Employment laws. Here's what you need to know:


Effective December 31, 2019, the minimum wage for upstate New York increases to $11.80 per hour for most workers, and $13.75 per hour for fast food workers.  The minimum wage for New York City and Westchester, Suffolk and Nassau Counties is higher.

Effective December 31, 2019, the minimum cash wage for tipped food service employees in upstate New York is $7.85 per hour, with a tip credit of $3.95 per hour.  The minimum cash wage and tip credit for New York City and Westchester, Suffolk and Nassau Counties are higher.


Effective December 31, 2019, the minimum salary for exempt executive and administrative employees in upstate New York increases to $885.00 per week.  The minimum exempt salary for New York City and Westchester, Suffolk and Nassau Counties is higher.


Effective January 6, 2020, employers are prohibited from requesting an applicant’s or employee’s pay history, and from basing employment decisions on pay history. 


The following changes in the NYS Paid Family Leave Law take effect January 1, 2020.

  • The paid leave period is unchanged at 10 weeks per year.
  • Employees taking Paid Family Leave will receive 60% of their average weekly wage  up to a cap of 60% of the current Statewide Average Weekly Wage ($1,401.17).  The maximum Paid Family Leave weekly benefit for 2020 will increase from $746.41 to $840.70.
  • The employee contribution rate is .270% of an employee’s gross wages each pay period (capped at the Statewide Average Weekly Wage). An employee’s maximum annual contribution is $196.72.
  • Effective January 1, 2020, Paid Family Leave has been extended to cover farm laborers.


Several significant changes to the New York Human Rights Law take effect in 2020.

  • All non-disclosure agreements included in employment agreements entered into on or after January 1, 2020, must allow the employee to speak with law enforcement, the EEOC, the Division of Human Rights, any local human rights commission, or an attorney retained by the employee.
  • The Human Rights Law previously applied only to employers with four or more employees.  Effective February 8, 2020 this threshold is eliminated and it will apply to all employers.
  • Effective August 12, 2020, the limitations period for filing a sexual harassment complaint with the Divison of Human Rights is increased from one year to three years.  

In addition to the above 2020 changes, other significant changes to the Human Rights Law took effect in the last half of 2019.

  • The definition of “race” now includes “hair texture and protective hairstyles.”
  • Employees must be provided with a sexual harassment prevention policy at the time of hire, and at every annual training.
  •  The legal standard for proving sexual harassment was eased.
  • Nondisclosure agreements in the settlement of any discrimination claim are prohibited, unless it is the claimant’s preference to have one.
  • It is no longer a defense to a harassment claim that the employer used reasonable care to prevent and correct harassing behavior, and the claimant unreasonably failed to take advantage of these mechanisms.  
  • Nonemployees, including independent contractors and vendors, are protected from all discrimination.
  • Prevailing claimants in administrative proceedings and court proceedings can now recover punitive damages and attorneys’ fees.
  • Mandatory arbitration agreements for discrimination claims are prohibited, except where inconsistent with Federal law.


  • In October 2019 New York’s Equal Pay Law was amended to apply to all protected classes under the Human Rights Law (not just sex),  and by lowering the burden of proof.


  • Effective May 10, 2020, most employers in New York City will no longer be able to conduct pre-employment testing for cannabis.  Exceptions include positions requiring Federal drug testing, testing for a CDL, medical positions, and law enforcement.
  • Even though this law applies only in New York City, it is likely that a similar law will eventually apply to the entire state.