The Tax Cuts and Job Act of 2017 was recently signed into law creating two important changes in executive compensation, which we outline below.
Alexander Song is an Associate in the firm’s Employment, Labor & Benefits Practice and is located in the New York office. Alex’s practice focuses on all aspects of executive compensation for both public and private companies, including drafting of equity and incentive compensation plans and award agreements as well as employment, change-in-control, and severance arrangements for executive officers. He also prepares compensation discussion, analysis, and proxy statement compensation tables for public companies.
Beginning on October 31st, New York City employers will be prohibited from inquiring about or relying on salary history during the hiring process. As a reminder, this ban makes it an unlawful discriminatory practice for an employer, employment agency, or employee or agent of the employer to: (1) inquire about the salary history of an applicant; or (2) rely on salary history of an applicant to determine salary, benefits, or other compensation for such applicant during the hiring process. Employers should revise their hiring processes in order to comply with the new law as soon as possible.
Recently, the New York City Commission on Human Rights released guidance regarding the ban on salary history inquiries in the form of two “Fact Sheets.” Both Fact Sheets answer the same questions, one from the perspective of employers, the other from the perspective of job applicants. The Fact Sheet for Employers provides the following questions and answers:
Regulations implementing the Paid Family Leave Act became effective on Wednesday, July 19, 2017. No substantive changes were made to the proposed regulations that were published back in May 2017 (which we addressed here).
The Paid Family Leave Act will provide, when fully implemented, employees in the state of New York with up to 12 weeks of job-protected paid family leave to (1) care for a family member (including a child, parent, grandparent, grandchild, spouse or domestic partner) with a serious health condition; (2) bond with the employee’s newborn or newly-placed adoptive or foster child during the first 12 months following birth or placement; or (3) address any qualifying exigency relating to a spouse, domestic partner, child or parent who is serving on active military duty. The Act will be funded by employee contributions and, when fully implemented, the employee will be entitled to income replacement of up to 2/3rds of the state average weekly salary.
January 1, 2018 was established as the date upon which benefit payments begin but the Act allowed employers to begin taking deductions as of July 1, 2017 to offset the cost of acquiring the mandated insurance policies.
The New York State Workers’ Compensation Board recently revised its proposed regulations (described in our previous blog post here) to the law. The revisions were in response to over 100 written comments. Here is a quick summary of those revisions:
Earlier this month, in In re Investors Bancorp, Inc. Stockholders Litigation, the Delaware Court of Chancery reiterated its view that placing a meaningful limit on director equity awards to be granted under a stockholder approved equity plan allows the court to determine whether director equity awards are excessive under the more lenient business judgment rule.
The New York State Workers’ Compensation Board is out with proposed regulations providing guidance to employers, insurance carriers and employees regarding their rights and responsibilities under New York’s new Paid Family Leave law, which is scheduled to go into effect January 1, 2018. Comments on the proposed rules will be accepted for 45 days – until April 8th (although we note that’s a Saturday). For our earlier post on the enactment of the Paid Family Leave Act, see here.
Over the next two weeks we will release our Year in Review segment, which will look at the key labor & employment law developments from 2016 in New York, the DC Metro Area, Massachusetts, and California while offering our thoughts about 2017. Today we kick off this segment with New York. In addition, please join us in NYC on April 6, 2017 for Mintz Levin’s Third Annual Employment Law Summit as we address some of the key labor & employment issues impacting employers in 2017. Register here.
2016 brought big changes for New York State and City employers, including expansive new discrimination protections and substantial increases in the minimum wage and exempt salary thresholds. While New York employers who successfully navigated 2016’s rush of legislative, regulatory and judicial obstacles might feel they’ve earned the right to shift their focus back from compliance issues to running their businesses, they should not lose sight of the additional challenges expected in 2017.
SEC Acting Chairman Michael S. Piwowar issued a public statement on February 6, 2017 requesting input on any unexpected challenges that companies have experienced as they prepare for compliance with the CEO pay ratio rule, which will become required disclosure in public company 2018 proxy statements. Piwowar also directed SEC staff to “reconsider the implementation of the rule” based on comments submitted.
This public statement and request for comments is a first step in considering changes to the rule, as part of the Republican Party’s effort to modify or roll back certain provisions of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd Frank). Any SEC modifications to the CEO pay ratio rule would take time to implement and may be challenged. The easiest route to prevent its implementation would be for Congress to repeal this provision of Dodd Frank.
Institutional Shareholder Services (“ISS”) has issued updated proxy voting guidelines, including an update to guidelines related to director compensation and the equity plan scorecard.
The updated guidelines are effective for meetings on or after February 1, 2017. Additional information will be made available in a FAQ to be released by ISS later this month.
Last month, the Securities and Exchange Commission released new Compliance & Disclosure Interpretations (“C&DIs”) which provide guidance on the CEO pay-ratio rules. As a reminder, the CEO pay-ratio rules were enacted in August of 2015 and generally require public companies to disclose the ratio of their CEO’s annual total compensation to that of the median annual total compensation of all other company employees.
The new C&DIs provide guidance on several aspects of these pay-ratio rules, including the determination of individuals to be included in the employee population and identification of the median employee.
For an overview of the pay-ratio rules, see this helpful post on the Securities Matters blog here.
The following provides an overview of the C&DIs: