RWA Launches Campaign Encouraging Tipped Employees to Contact Legislators on Tip Credit Issue
While all remains quiet from the Department of Labor (DOL) on the tip credit front, work is still being being done behind the scenes to ensure that this important economic tool remains in place. To that end, our coalition partners, the Restaurant Workers of America (RWA), have launched an action page encouraging tipped employees to contact legislators on this issue.

The form letter that populates outlines why tipped employees are in favor of keeping the tip credit, emphasizing the fact that they are not asking for this change. The letter declares, “Tens of thousands of tipped employees are earning good livings through their tips and they don't want government to mess it up for them.”

We encourage all of our members to share this link with their employees and continue to talk to them about this important issue. If you have any questions please contact our Government Affairs Director Kevin Dugan at kevin@nysra.org .

State Abandons Plan to Alter Call-in Pay Regulations
News broke late yesterday evening that the DOL will no longer pursue anticipated scheduling rule changes for retail businesses that fall outside of the Hospitality Wage Order. DOL began exploring this issue in a series of hearings in 2017 and even released a revised set of rules back in December on the proposed changes that seemed to indicate that they were set to be adopted. But after further consideration the DOL has decided to abandon the plan stating that they are unable to find the right balance between employee protection and business interests. In their statement DOL said they realized a “one size fits all” approach to this issue would not be in the best interest for either side and that more nuances exist between industries than they originally thought.

While these proposed changes were not set to impact the restaurant industry, it is a promising sign that Commissioner Reardon and her staff are considering business interests before making decisions on important topics. This determination will certainly be met with derision from labor unions like RWDSU and others who have found themselves opposing the Governor on more issues of late, furthering a rift that seemed to be created when the Amazon deal fell apart.

Congestion Pricing Still Unsettled Despite Agreement between Mayor and Governor
Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Senate Democrats appear to be ready to square off again, this time over congestion pricing. Earlier this week, Governor Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio both voiced their support for a congestion pricing plan, finding common ground on a single proposal for the first time. Cuomo said this plan would generate as much as $15 billion by adding electronic toll booths that would charge drivers who enter the “central business district” in Manhattan. This district would encompass all areas below 61 st Street in Manhattan except for the FDR. This money would then be used to help repair portions of the MTA which is why the plan has the support of Mayor de Blasio.

While the Mayor and Governor agree, it turns out Democrats are not on board yet. Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and the Long Island Senate Democratic delegation have indicated that they are not in support of this plan as it does not do enough to help the suburbs. They are arguing that the Long Island Rail Road and Metro North are also in need of repairs and that not enough resources are being diverted to these rail systems, especially as many of the tax income generated from these tolls will be from those who live in these areas.

Again, this issue highlights that a schism is growing between the Governor and those in the Senate. Both parties need each other to get legislation passed on this issue, but there appears to be a long way to go before an agreement will be reached. We will continue to update you on this as it develops.

NY City Council Discusses a Myriad of Marijuana Issues
On Wednesday, February 27, NY City Council held a joint hearing with four different committees: the Committees on Public Safety, Justice System, Civil and Human Rights, and Consumer Affairs. They met to discuss 22 resolutions and 4 proposed laws relating to marijuana.
 
Much of the testimony broadly addressed the public safety, public health, and social equity merits of legalizing marijuana - which is not an action the City can take on its own – as well as the potential local frameworks New York City could implement, should the state legalize. A key request echoed in testimony was for marijuana taxation revenues to be reinvested in communities affected by the war on drugs, and conscious government efforts to prioritize these communities in any future cannabis economy. Overall, the testimony seemed to presume that legal marijuana is likely, though some Council Members, including Chaim Deutsch and Peter Koo, expressed strong doubts and concerns.
 
One proposal that may be of interest to employers is Int. 1145, co-sponsored by Council Members Jumaane Williams, Carlina Rivera, and Laurie Cumbo. This proposal would prohibit employers from conducting pre-employment drug screenings for THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) as a condition of employment. There would be exceptions, including safety and security related jobs and jobs tied to federal grants and contracts.
 
The sponsors suggested that this proposal would protect the privacy of prospective employees, who should not be punished for using marijuana outside of work. They clarified that this proposal would not allow people to come to work high, and maintained that employers would not be expected to tolerate employees high at work. Would this affect you? We are interested in your feedback around pre-employment drug testing for THC, email kathleenr@nysra.org .
 
We are watching at the city and state level to see how potential marijuana legalization proceeds, and will keep you updated on this issue.
 
Westchester County Ban-the-Box Bill to Take Effect Next Week
Beginning March 4, Westchester County businesses face additional restrictions when making pre-employment inquiries into and statements about a job applicant’s criminal history. The law, commonly referred to as “ban-the-box law” covers applicants seeking employment with companies that have at least four employees and it does not apply to independent contractors.

Under the new law employers would not be able to:
  • make oral or written inquiries related to criminal convictions or arrest records in an employment application;
  • disqualify an applicant from employment for refusing to answer an unlawful inquiry or statement related to his or her criminal history; or
  • specify qualification criteria based on criminal history in a job advertisement.

Exceptions exist for those applying for positions in law enforcement or if existing Federal or State law requires criminal background checks for employment purposes. If you have any questions on what this law may mean for you, please contact our Government Affairs Director Kevin Dugan at kevin@nysra.org .
NYSRA Compliance Hotline
833.682.6411 | advocate@nysra.org