NYSRA’s 2017 Legislative Wrap-Up

NYSRA surcharge structure tariffs small business

2017 has ended and the NYS Restaurant Association wanted to highlight some of the important legislative issues that have been top of mind all year, as well as some important reminders for 2018. The NYSRA Government Affairs team continues to work hard to protect the interests of the restaurant industry throughout the entire year.

Prepare for the Minimum Wage Increase

As part of a multi-year phase in passed by the New York State Legislature in 2016, the minimum wage increased again on December 31. The NYS Restaurant Association wants to make sure you’re prepared, so we have created a worksheet which can be found under the resources tab on our website that clearly spells out all the details of the minimum wage increase. We at the Association are encouraging all members to talk with their accountants to ensure that they have a sound strategy to combat this increase in labor costs.

Paid Family Leave Law and Deduction

As part of the 2016 budget process, lawmakers and Governor Cuomo passed and signed the most comprehensive paid family leave law in the country.

The new rules would include:

  • New York’s new family leave law that began on January 1, 2018
  • Leave is paid for by a deduction from employee payroll.
  • Employees will be eligible for paid time off to care for the birth or adoption of a child, serious health condition of a family member, or a qualified military exigency. The law applies to all private sector employers.
  • Employees must be employed for 26 weeks before they are eligible for leave.
  • Employees returning from leave are entitled to return to their same or comparable position without loss of benefits they would have accrued otherwise.
  • Employers must also continue the employees’ health insurance during leave as if they were actively working.

For more information, including the full phase in schedule, please take a look at a worksheet that we have prepared for Paid Family Leave

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Ridesharing Comes to Upstate New York

Our primary offensive legislative goal at the State level this year was to pass a law that would allow upstate communities to use ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft and we were successful! Ridesharing companies like Lyft and Uber are now able to serve your customers longing for an affordable, safe and reliable ride home from your restaurant or bar. The Association has long argued that these services will increase traffic in the hospitality industry and help keep our customers safe.

Throughout our two-year-long advocacy campaign many of our members attended press events, discussed the issue with their lawmakers, or came to the capitol to push the issue. Thank you to everyone who participated; your help was key to our success.

Fair Work Week in New York City

In late November, the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs announced that the Fair Work Week Scheduling Laws were officially in effect and inspectors will begin issuing warnings to those quick service restaurants that are not in compliance. The Department has assured the Association that it is taking an “education first” approach and will host a series of educational seminars on the new laws before issuing fines. As a reminder, these new laws only affect restaurants that have 30 or more locations across the country.

This package will mandate employers:

  • Provide written schedules for the first two weeks of work with hours, dates, start and end times of shifts and written “Good Faith Estimates” (days, times, hours, locations you can expect to work during your employment) before an employee’s first day.
  • Give workers their written work schedule at least 14 days before their first shift in the schedule.
  • Advertise shifts to existing workers before looking for new employees.
  • Cannot schedule workers to work two shifts over two days when the first shift ends a day and when there are less than 11 hours between shifts unless workers consent in writing AND are paid a $100 premium to work the shift.
  • Authorize voluntary deductions and contributions to a nonprofit.

If employers do not meet the above criteria after the educational period has concluded, the offending restaurant will face financial penalties to be determined by the Department of Consumer Affairs.

NYSRA Sees Victory on Commercial Rent Tax Reform

A significant government affairs’ victory for the Association this year was the passage of legislation that reformed the commercial rent tax code and raised the threshold for businesses that were subjected to the tax from $250,000 to $500,000.

This tax was unfair to many of the restaurants that are located below 96th Street in Manhattan, the only area in the five boroughs that still has this unnecessary tax. The threshold for the tax was last changed in 2001, when it was raised to $250,000 from $150,000. Since then, commercial rents have exploded in most of Manhattan to include more small businesses in this unneeded tax.

The Association was incredibly active in fighting for this reform as we testified in support of this legislation, wrote an op-ed that appeared in Crain’s Business Journal on the importance of this issue and met with Councilmember Dan Garodnick who was the primary champion of this bill. This bill will help hundreds of restaurants across Manhattan.

Association Sees Victory on Food Vendor Licenses

The Association’s Government Affairs team was able to fight off a late push from City Council President Melissa Mark-Viverito to get a bill passed that would dramatically increase the number of street vendor licenses available in New York City. The Association was staunchly opposed to this bill, as it would flood the streets with licenses before any study was conducted on the economic viability of this increase and the impact it would have on the restaurant industry.

If you have any questions about this or any topics please contact our Government Affairs Director Kevin Dugan at Kevin@nysra.org.

For more information on NYSRA, visit our website at www.nysra.org.