November 07, 2023 New York State Law Restricting Certain Types of “Captive Audience” Meetings
KEEPING YOU INFORMED…
We are writing to advise you of a recent amendment to New York Labor Law § 201-d, which prohibits employers from requiring non-supervisory/non-managerial employees to either listen to or view communications, or attend a meeting, the primary purpose of which is to communicate the employer’s opinion concerning religious or political matters. Employees who decline or refuse to attend such a “captive audience” meeting or to listen to or view employer communications concerning religious or political matters cannot be terminated or otherwise discriminated against in terms of compensation, promotions, or any other terms or conditions of employment.
A “political matter” is defined broadly to include one “relating to elections for political office, political parties, legislation, regulation and the decision to join or support any political party or political, civic, community, fraternal, or labor organization.” Notably, this includes employer-required meetings to discuss union organizing (for or against) and related union activities. The law defines a “religious matter” as one “relating to religious affiliation and practice and the decision to join or support any religious organization or association.” The law does not specify how much of a particular meeting must be devoted to one or both of these topics in order for it to constitute the “primary purpose” of the meeting.
This law applies to all employers except religious corporations, entities, associations, educational institutions or societies, which are exempt from the requirements of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act with respect to speech on religious matters to employees who perform work connected with the activities undertaken by that religious entity.
Employers may still:
• Hold “captive audience” meetings with managerial and supervisory employees.
• Allow casual conversations among employees or an employee and the employer’s agent, representative or designee, where participation is not mandatory.
• Conduct voluntary meetings with the employees.
• Communicate about religious or political matters to the extent required by law.
• Communicate information necessary for the employee to perform the employee’s job duties.
In addition, institutions of higher education or their agents, representatives or designees may still hold meetings or engage in communications about religious or political matters that are part of the coursework, symposia or academic program of the institution.
It has not yet been determined whether this law is preempted by the National Labor Relations Act for employers covered by that Act, but we anticipate that there will be litigation challenging the amendment on those grounds as well as being an unconstitutional restriction on free speech. We recommend that employers speak with us before engaging in any meetings or communications that may be covered by the amendment.
The amended law also requires all employers to post a sign in each workplace explaining the new protections against captive audience meetings.
If you have any questions regarding the new captive audience rules or how they may affect your workplace, please contact Bryan Georgiady, Sharon Berlin, Alyssa Zuckerman, or one of our other attorneys by calling (631) 694-2300.
THIS MEMORANDUM IS MEANT TO ASSIST IN GENERAL UNDERSTANDING OF THE CURRENT LAW. IT IS NOT TO BE REGARDED AS LEGAL ADVICE. THOSE WITH PARTICULAR QUESTIONS SHOULD SEEK THE ADVICE OF COUNSEL.
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© Lamb & Barnosky, LLP 2023