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Know Your Rights

A Guide for Employees New York State and Federal Labor and Employment Laws*

This guide contains general information about your rights at work. Cannabis employers in New York State (NYS) must follow all employment laws that apply to them both in New York and under federal laws.

Labor and Employment Laws

Employees and employers in the cannabis business have legal rights and responsibilities in the workplace. Cannabis employers in NYS must follow all employment laws that apply to them.

There are laws that cover all parts of your job including hiring, promotions, transfers, work assignments, work locations, wages, hours, benefits, time off, performance, discipline, training, termination and retirement. Most laws protect you from retaliation and discrimination related to the specific law.

New York State Employment Laws Summary List

Federal Employment Laws Summary List

Labor unions and collective bargaining

You have the right to form or join a labor union. Labor unions are a group of employees who agree to join together to improve their wages, hours or working conditions. The union negotiates (bargains) with the employer about your wages, benefits, schedules and other employment terms and conditions. Once an agreement is reached, it becomes a contract (collective bargaining agreement) between the union and the employer.

Once a union is formed the labor laws require employers to engage in good faith collective bargaining that results in a collective bargaining agreement.

Collective bargaining agreements are the contracts unions negotiate on behalf of their members with employers regarding wages, hours, and working conditions. Most contracts contain a formal procedure for employees to raise grievances about misinterpretation or misapplication of the contract including discharge. Typically, if the processes do not result in resolution, the union can request the dispute be heard by a neutral person called an arbitrator who holds a hearing and makes a final decision.

Under the NYS law legalizing use of recreational cannabis, cannabis business owners are required to get a license and must sign a Labor Peace Agreement (LPA) with an authentic (bona fide) union. The Labor Peace Agreement allows employees to decide if they want to form or join a union and your employer is required to remain neutral and will not interfere with the choice you are making. The union also agrees not to strike or boycott the business. The signing of an LPA does not mean you are automatically choosing to be represented by a union, are a member of a union, or covered by a collective bargaining agreement. For more information about Labor Peace Agreements, click here 

If you are not represented by a union, you also have rights under the labor law. You have the right to participate in “concerted activity”, which is when two or more employees take action for their mutual aid or protection regarding wages, hours or terms and conditions of employment. A single employee may also engage in protected concerted activity if he or she is acting to protect their fellow employees, bringing group complaints to the employer’s attention, or discussing with fellow employees the need for group action, or organizing for group action.

A few examples of protected concerted activities are:

  • Two or more employees meeting with their employer about improving pay for employees.
  • Two or more employees discussing work-related issues beyond pay, such as safety concerns, with each other.
  • An employee speaking to an employer on behalf of one or more co-workers about improving workplace conditions.

Wages (Compensation)

The minimum wage is the lowest hourly rate that employers can pay their employees. You are entitled to receive at least the minimum wage. In 2023, most employers in NYS must pay employees at least $14.20/hour. In New York City, Westchester County, and Long Island the minimum wage is $15.00/hour. On January 1, 2024, the minimum wage in NYS will increase to $15.00/hour. It will be $16.00/hour in New York City, Westchester County, and Long Island.

Overtime pay is determined by your job duties and salary. Most employees are entitled to overtime (non-exempt). If you have certain specific job duties (exempt), such as executives or administrators, employers may not be required to pay overtime.

Overtime pay is additional wages for hours worked beyond 40 hours in a workweek. Overtime entitled employees have the right to receive one and a half times (1.5) the regular hourly rate for each hour worked over 40 hours in a week. For example, if your hourly rate is $20 you would get $30/hour for any hours worked over 40 hours in a week.
If you are cultivating cannabis (a farm laborer), you are entitled to the same overtime pay of 1.5 hours for any work beyond 60 hours in a week and for work performed on their designated day of rest.

Employers must provide you wage information and existing job descriptions when advertising and posting jobs for applicants or employees seeking new job in the organization. When you are hired and every year you are employed, your employer must provide you with your wage rate.

Most workers are employees. As an employee you are directed and supervised by your employer. Independent contractors work for themselves and provide services to an employer. Independent contractors decide when, where, and how to do their tasks. Independent contractors do not receive employee benefits such as health insurance, retirement, or paid time off, and the employer does not pay or deduct employee related Federal and NYS taxes.

Time Off

The federal law entitles you to 12 weeks of unpaid time off for a serious medical condition or to care for a seriously ill immediate family member, the birth, adoption, or foster of a child, and reasons related to a family member’s service in the military. It provides job protection and continues medical insurance. To be eligible your employer must have 50 or more employees and you must meet the required time worked.

New York State law also grants you the right to take up to 12 weeks of paid family leave. NYS family leave covers more family members, including time off to care for a serious medical condition of a domestic partner, parent of a spouse or domestic partner and your grandparents, siblings and grandchildren. Your employer must also provide you paid time off to bond within the first year your child is born, adopted, or fostered, and for reasons related to a family member’s active military service in a foreign country. You must meet the required time worked in order to qualify for these benefits. If you qualify, you will receive a percentage of your average weekly wage, up to a maximum amount set by the state. These benefits are paid for by a deduction from your wages.

In NYS, your sick leave includes mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition, regardless of whether it has been diagnosed, requires medical care or is preventive care. The law entitles you to paid or unpaid sick leave depending on the size of your employer and your employer’s revenue.

If you or a family member is a victim of any act or threat of domestic violence or unwanted sexual contact, stalking, or human trafficking, you can utilize safe leave to seek legal and social services assistance or take other safety measures. The law entitles you to paid or unpaid safe leave depending on the size of your employer and your employer’s revenue.

If you are injured on the job or become ill as a direct result of your job, you have the right to receive medical care and financial support during your recovery period through your employer’s workers compensation insurance.

NYS law provides paid or unpaid time off for jury duty and voting.

When you are cultivating cannabis (a farm employee) your employer must provide you with a full 24-hour day of rest each week.

Discrimination, Harassment and Retaliation

You are protected from discrimination, harassment and retaliation at work based on your race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, military status, disability, arrest/conviction record, predisposing genetic characteristics, gender identity/expression, marital/familial status, pregnancy/lactation, or being a domestic violence victim. In addition, your employer cannot take negative actions (retaliate) against you if you complain. Also, you cannot discriminate, harass or retaliate against your co-workers.
These anti-discrimination laws cover all parts of your job including hiring, promotions, transfers, work assignments, work locations, wages, hours, benefits, time off, performance, discipline, training, termination and retirement.

Safety

Cannabis employers are required to provide a safe workplace. You have a right to report workplace safety issues to the employer and appropriate agencies. In addition, the law prohibits employers from retaliating against you if you file a complaint, assist in safety investigations or report workplace safety issues or workplace related injuries.

* This overview covers key areas of the NYS and Federal labor and employment laws. In addition to NYS and Federal labor and employment laws and agencies, there are NY Local laws and agencies. The CWI resources are only provided for general informational purposes and are not a substitute for legal advice. The laws and their implementation are constantly changing.

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