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on November 4, 2019 Human Resources HR Law

Employment Law Changes for October 2019

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Welcome to the backstitch HR law blog, a series where we provide the latest updates on upcoming and recently in-effect legislation. Our blog series will provide short snippets of State, Federal, and Global changes in HR and employment law, so your organization can continue to stay up to date in the legal world.  

Several States have adopted new employment laws during the month of October. Some important ones involve anti-discrimination and sexual harassment. 

New York

The State of New York has quite a few new laws going into effect this month. On October 8, 2019, the state's equal pay law updates its definition of equal pay as substantially similar work. The same day also see new rules involving explicit prohibition of discrimination of religious garb and facial hair in the workplace. 

The Stop Hacks and Improve Electronic Data Security Act (SHIELD) redefines data breach to be merely access to private information, regardless if the information was stolen or not. Also, in a similar vein to GDPR, SHIELD holds accountable any organization that stores information of New York residents, regardless of where the business itself is located. This means all companies with New York employees, including those with branch offices or remote workers, must put in additional safeguards for data privacy. 

On October 27, New York Labor Law Section 215, an anti-discriminatory law that prevents employers from penalizing or threatening employees in a discriminatory manner, is updated to include contacting Federal immigration authorities and questioning the citizenship status of immigrant employees and their family members. 

New York also has a collection of anti-harassment laws going into effect, which will be covered in a later section along with multiple other states. 


While technically not in October, the State of Illinois is the first state to have mandatory retirement plans, with another category of employers coming under its purview on November 1, 2019. The Illinois Secure Choice Retirement Savings Program was signed into law in 2015, and has been gradually rolled out to employers since November 1, 2018. It requires that any company that does not offer a qualified savings plan of their own must instead offer their employees the Secure Choice plan, and currently requires organizations with 100 employees or more to participate. On November 1, 2019, employers of 25 or more employees must be enrolled in the program. 

Sexual Harassment

The states of California, Connecticut, New York, and Oklahoma all have new laws regarding harassment in the workplace going into effect soon. California has made sexual harassment training mandatory to employers of 5 or more, with supervisors needing at least 2 hours of training and non-supervisors requiring 1 hour every two years. Connecticut's Times Up Act, likewise, has made companies of 3 or more employees require 2 hours of sexual harassment training for everyone, while those fewer than 3 will need to provide 2 hours of training for supervisors. Both states went into effect on October 1, 2019. 

New York, on the other hand, has a variety of new rules from bill S6577, which modifies the New York Human Rights Law, go into effect on October 11, 2019. Some highlights include: workplace sexual harassment no longer need to be described as "severe" or "pervasive." NDAs are also prohibited unless the complaint prefers it and it is written in plain English and/or the complaint's preferred language. Employers must also provide sexual harassment policies and training materials during the time of hire and every year during an annual sexual harassment prevention training. 

Oklahoma's Protection from Workplace Harassment and Violence Act will allow employers, beginning on November 1, 2019, to file a court injunction to prevent an individual from going to the employer's property, including their workplace, and also prevent the individual from contacting the employer, employees, or even other people on the employer's property or conducting work duties. 

Make sure your company will be compliant with these new updates to avoid costly penalties and lost productivity. Follow this series to ensure your company is compliant with the many employment law changes happening in the future. 

Liang Deng

Chief of Staff

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