This week features a flurry of activity in Albany as Gov. Kathy Hochul signed new employment laws related to employer-mandated retirement savings programs, shared work programs, and employee protection from retaliation for reporting illegal or dangerous business activities.  Here is what you need to know:

Employer-Mandated Retirement Savings Programs: On October 21, 2021, Gov. Hochul signed an amendment to Section 130 of the New York General Business Law, requiring certain private sector employers to automatically enroll their employees in New York State’s Secure Choice Savings Plan – which is an automatic enrollment payroll deduction IRA.  Employees who do not wish to participate can opt out of the program at any time.  This law, which is effective immediately, applies to private employers who: (i) have at all times during the previous calendar year employed at least ten employees in the state, (ii) have been in business at least two years, and (iii) have not offered a qualified retirement plan in the preceding two years.

Shared Work Programs: On October 23, 2021, Gov. Hochul signed a new law codified at Section 605-A of the New York Labor Law, authorizing employees facing a potential layoff to petition their employer to participate in a shared work program. The majority of employees may now submit a request for a shared work program in writing to the employer before the layoff or within 10 days of the layoff. Employers have seven days to respond and are not required to implement the program. If utilized, however, the shared work program will allow employers to reduce all employee hours but keep the entire staff working to help avoid layoffs. The state would then help the workers with reduced hours by providing unemployment assistance to cover some part of lost wages. This law is effective immediately.

Protection from Retaliation:  On October 28, 2021, Gov. Hochul signed legislation that amends Section 740 of the New York Labor Law to provide additional protections to private sector employees who report illegal or dangerous business activities.  The law enhances employee protections from employer retaliation in a number of ways—three of which are particularly significant.  First, it expands the definition of employee to include former employees and independent contractors.  Second, it expands the scope of retaliatory action to include (i) actions or threats to take actions that would adversely impact a former employee’s current or future employment, and (ii) contacting or threats to contract immigration authorities.  Third, the statute of limitations was extended to two years.