September 13, 2023 — PEF, working with other labor unions and advocacy groups, pushed for the passage and enactment of several bills which benefit PEF members and their families, including bills that: 

    1. Combine provisional and probationary periods for permanent appointments;
    2. Expand notice requirements for Civil Service Exams;
    3. Increase and Index Workers’ Compensation Minimum Benefit;
    4. Protect Workers from Retaliation for Refusing Captive Audience Meetings and;
    5. Increase penalties for wage theft.

Photo of Gov. Hochul at the 2021 PEF ConventionThe first bill requires that any time an employee spends in a provisional title would count toward any required probationary period they would be subject to upon being put in a permanent position. 

“This legislation will help the worker shortage by making it easier for provisional employees to become permanent employees of the state,” said PEF President Wayne Spence. “Having the probationary period reduced by any time already spent as a provisional employee will ease the concern of employees about possibly being terminated and increase the likelihood that provisional employees will continue on with state service.” 

The expanded notice requirements for Civil Service exams requires the state and municipal civil service commissions to distribute notices of competitive exams to Boards of Cooperative Education (BOCES), local social service districts, high schools, colleges, and job training programs. 

In a press release announcing the signing of these two bills, Gov. Kathy Hochul said: “This legislation will help to strengthen the pipeline to civil service, allowing even more New Yorkers to heed the call to join our public workforce.” 

The third bill will increase the Workers’ Compensation minimum benefit in steps from $150 per week and eventually index it to one-fifth of the statewide average weekly wage. This will result in phased minimum benefit increases of $275 per week for workers hurt on or after Jan. 1, 2024; $325 per week for workers hurt on or after Jan. 1, 2025; and one-fifth of the statewide average weekly wage for workers hurt on or after July 1, 2026.  

To protect workers, the fourth bill prevents discrimination against workers who refuse to participate in captive audience meetings by employers that require workers to attend and listen to views on political, religious, or other personal issues, including labor organizing. 

Finally, increased penalties for wage theft helps protect workers from exploitation. This bill amends the Penal Law to update the definition of larceny to include wage theft, allowing for the aggregation of multiple instances of wage theft into a single larceny count. It also clarifies that wage theft includes the non-payment of minimum wage rate and overtime, as well as underpayment of wages promised if greater than the minimum wage. 

“We are thankful to Gov. Hochul for signing these bills and recognizing the importance of recruiting and retaining talent, and of protecting the talent that we already have in the public sector,” Spence said.