Craft Brewer As Employer — A Few Things To Know:

May 15th, 2015 • by Christopher Gegwich
Christopher Gegwich

Christopher Gegwich

Christopher G. Gegwich is a partner in Nixon Peabody’s nationally recognized Labor and Employment group. Christopher represents public and private institutions, ranging from small businesses to huge corporations to nonprofit organizations in all aspects of labor and employment law. My practice focuses on three main areas—employment litigation, preventative counseling and education law.

For most craft brewers, it is one of the milestones of success—the opening of a public tasting room and accompanying facilities to pursue your passion on a larger scale and in greater quantity. Hand in hand with this expansion is the need for additional bodies to brew the beer, man the tap room, etc. If these individuals are not your partners, they are most likely your “employees.” If you are a first-time employer, the following are a few things that you need to know:

Minimum wage, overtime and notice requirements: In New York, the minimum wage for an employee paid by the hour is $8.75, which is slated to go to $9 an hour on December 31, 2015. Note, however, that food service and hospitality employees who regularly receive tips from customers or patrons as part of their work may be paid a lower hourly rate under certain circumstances. If an hourly employee works more than 40 hours in any given workweek, the employee is entitled to overtime pay, at a rate of time and one-half, for every hour over 40. Finally, the New York Wage Theft Prevention Act requires that employers provide employees with certain information in writing—both at the time of hire and with each paycheck—relating to dates of pay, rate of pay, whether the employee is entitled to overtime, overtime rate, deductions and the legal name and business address of the employer, and keep copies of these records for six years.

Insurance: Employers with one or more employees working in New York are required to obtain Workers’ Compensation insurance, which provides insurance coverage for work-related accidents, injuries and illnesses. Employers with one or more employees for thirty days in a calendar year are also required to obtain short-term disability coverage to provide wage supplements for off-the-job accidents, injuries and illnesses. In addition, New York employers are required to register with the state’s unemployment insurance program once they become liable for unemployment insurance, which is generally the first day of a calendar quarter in which the employer pays an employee $300 or more.

Non-discrimination and reasonable accommodation: Once an employer in New York has four or more employees, it is subject to the provisions of the New York State Human Rights Law, which prohibits discrimination in hiring and any other term or condition of employment. Equally as important, it obligates an employer to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities, such as a leave of absence, job modification or other support services, unless such accommodation would prove to be an undue hardship.

Given that the foregoing list is not exhaustive, the obligations and responsibilities of a new New York employer are daunting. Keep yourself on the right side of the law by working with an experienced local labor and employment attorney, human resources consultant or the New York State Department of Labor to ensure compliance with all federal, state and local laws. After all, most entrepreneurs enter business to spend time doing what they love, not trying to extricate themselves from an employee-related issue caused by some minor and unintentional oversight.

To learn more about the issues facing emerging breweries, join Nixon Peabody LLP on June 3, 2015, for an informative program: Taking your craft brewery, distillery or winery to the next level—what you need to be thinking about now. The details for the event can be found here: Taking Your Craft Brewery, Distillery, Or Winery To The Next Level