“Captive Audience” Legislation
On September 6, 2023, Governor Kathy Hochul signed legislation, effective immediately, that prohibits employers from requiring their employees to attend meetings that have a “primary purpose” of communicating the employer’s opinions on religious or political matters, including joining labor organizations (“captive audience meetings”). Employers are also now required to post a notice informing employees of their rights under this new law.
NFIB strongly opposed this legislation. This law could face legal challenges as an unconstitutional infringement of the employer’s First Amendment rights and the free speech protections under the National Labor Relations Act (NRLA). Employers should review their communication practices with employees about religious or political matters, including the possibility of joining or forming a union. NFIB will continue to monitor this law and update members on any further actions or developments.
Workers’ Compensation Reform
On September 6, 2023, Governor Kathy Hochul signed legislation that will increase the minimum worker’s compensation benefit to $275 beginning January 1, 2024, and $325 effective beginning January 1, 2025. On January 1, 2026, the formula for calculating the worker’s compensation benefit will change to not less than 1/5 of Statewide Average Weekly Wage (SAWW). Employees with wages less than or equal to 1/5 of the SAWW would receive full salaries. The additional burden this legislation imposes on employers will be felt mostly by businesses with part-time, seasonal, or lower-wage employees. It may also serve as a disincentive for injured employees to return to work, exacerbating the labor shortage, and keeping New York’s unemployment rate higher than the national average.
Governor Hochul recognized both the practical and financial challenges of this legislation, and issued a veto in 2022, unfortunately, she did not do the same this year. NFIB strongly opposed this legislation recognizing New York State should not be adding costs, and instead should be pursuing solutions to provide much needed financial relief for Main Street.