Tech Giants Plant Flags in Established and Emerging Talent Hubs

Tech Giants Plant Flags in Established and Emerging Talent Hubs

After a yearlong search that saw cities compete for its favor, Amazon announced in November that it had picked two locations rather than one for its second headquarters (“HQ2”) project: the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens, New York, and the Crystal City area in Arlington, Virginia, a major suburb of Washington, DC. The choices proved controversial, as the tech giant had made a spectacle of courting many bidders that may never have had a chance, while both New York and Virginia are giving Amazon generous subsidies to set up shop in their states, despite the fact that these locales are strategically desirable locations for tech companies anyway.

While some observers had speculated that Amazon would pick an up-and-coming city in the US heartland, where the introduction of such a huge employer would transform the local economy, in the end, the choice came down to talent, and the New York and DC areas simply offered better access to talent than any other city Amazon was considering. (It’s also setting up a smaller operations center in Nashville, Tennessee — more on that later.) It’s no coincidence, Recode’s Jason Del Rey observed at the time, that the winning bidders were among the country’s leading tech talent hubs:

[W]hat do you see when you look at rankings of the top technology talent pools in the U.S.? Only two metro areas rank above the Washington, D.C., metro area: The San Francisco Bay Area, which Amazon never considered, and Seattle, the home of Amazon’s original headquarters. At No. 3, Washington, D.C., makes a lot of sense. Fourth is Toronto — but despite its booming tech scene, Amazon never gave any hints that it would seriously consider a big move across the border. Which brings us to No. 5 on the tech talent list: New York City.

Ultimately, Amazon decided it needed two cities — whether it always knew this or not is up for debate — to meet its hiring demands and to reduce some of the potential downsides that Seattle has experienced as a result of Amazon’s 45,000-employee footprint there.

Establishing these new headquarters will take years, the Wall Street Journal added this month, perhaps as much as a decade, because Amazon plans to do most of its hiring for them locally rather than relocate workers from its home base in Seattle. By the end of next year, the company plans to add 400 employees in Crystal City and 700 in Queens — out of an expected total of 25,000 in each city by 2028, assuming the e-commerce giant continues its trajectory of rapid growth.

Amazon’s decision underscores the importance of talent communities for major companies making strategic planning decisions with regard to location. While many workers in tech and other digitally-enabled professions can work remotely today, most organizations still prefer to recruit and base the bulk of their workforce in centrally located offices, so it pays to set up shop in a place where the talent you need already lives or would be willing to move.

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New York Caps New Ride-Share Licenses, May Establish Minimum Wage for Drivers

New York Caps New Ride-Share Licenses, May Establish Minimum Wage for Drivers

The New York City Council passed legislation on Wednesday to put a one-year cap on for-hire vehicle licenses and to empower the city government to set a minimum wage for ridesharing drivers, in a crackdown on the largely unregulated growth of platforms like Uber and Lyft, the New York Times reported:

The proposal to cap ride-hail companies led to a clash among interest groups with taxi industry officials saying the companies were dooming their business and Uber mounting a major advertising campaign to make the case that yellow cabs have a history of discriminating against people of color.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Corey Johnson, the City Council speaker, said the bills will curtail the worsening traffic on the streets and improve low driver wages. … But Uber has warned its riders that the cap could produce higher prices and longer wait times for passengers if the company cannot keep up with the growing demand.

New York is the largest market for Uber in the US, but already regulated ridesharing more stringently than many other American cities. To address concerns about unfair competition from the local taxi industry, New York requires drivers to obtain special licenses from the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission, along with commercial liability insurance and special plates for their vehicles, which must meet certain eligibility criteria.

The new will not affect Uber and Lyft drivers who are already licensed to operate in the city, but will pause the issuing of new licenses immediately while the city studies the effects of the rise of ridesharing on traffic, driver wages, and the local economy.

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New York City Council Passes Anti-Sexual Harassment Legislation

New York City Council Passes Anti-Sexual Harassment Legislation

Last week, The New York City Council passed a suite of 11 separate bills intended to address the scourge of workplace sexual harassment by providing additional protections for victims and imposing new obligations on organizations to prevent harassment, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The measures include a mandate requiring employers with 15 or more workers to conduct sexual harassment prevention training for all employees at least once a year. Employers in the city will also be required to display an anti-sexual-harassment poster designed by the local government, while prospective contractors will have to detail their anti-harassment policies in their bids for city contracts. City agencies will be obligated to report harassment incidents to the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, in order to collect more information on the prevalence of sexual harassment, which the city does not currently know enough about.

Another bill expands sexual harassment protections under the New York City Human Rights Law to employees of organizations with four or fewer employees, meaning all employees will be covered by them. Yet another bill increases the statute of limitations for filing harassment claims from one year to three. (Jackson Lewis attorneys offer a more complete description of the bills at the law firm’s website.)

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New York City Council Poised to Mandate Sexual Harassment Training

New York City Council Poised to Mandate Sexual Harassment Training

The New York City Council is considering what the New York Times describes as “a raft of legislation” to address sexual harassment and misconduct in the workplace, including a requirement that all businesses with at least 15 employees conduct sexual harassment prevention training:

Much of the legislation, called the Stop Sexual Harassment in New York City Act, is focused on addressing instances of sexual misconduct that may go unreported, particularly within city agencies. Several of the bills create reporting requirements for city contractors or agencies. One bill would create a system for surveying agencies to prompt anonymous disclosure of potential problems to try to prevent harassment.

Private employers would also be required to display a poster with practical examples of sexual harassment, as well as a way to contact city, state or federal authorities with complaints.

If the legislation passes, New York City will become one of only a few jurisdictions where private employers are required to provide this training. California and Connecticut require that organizations with at least 50 employees provide training to supervisors, while Maine requires organizations of at least 15 people to train all employees, plus additional training for supervisors. Some states have sexual harassment training requirements for public sector employees or educators, while others encourage but don’t mandate it for private employers, and still others take the presence of such training into account in judging whether an employer was negligent in a sexual harassment case.

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State and Local Salary History Bans Having Ripple Effects

State and Local Salary History Bans Having Ripple Effects

When Massachusetts became the first US state to bar employers from asking candidates for their salary histories in an amendment to the Bay State’s equal pay law last year, some observers predicted that it would be the first of many to do so. Sure enough, others have followed suit this year, including New York City in April and California in October, along with Delaware and Oregon. Democrats in the House of Representatives even proposed a bill last September to ban salary history inquiries nationwide, which they introduced in May in response to a federal court ruling that gender pay gaps based on salary history were not discriminatory.

That bill has virtually no hope of becoming law in the current Congress, but inspiring federal legislation is not the only way that these state and local bans can have nationwide impacts. California, Massachusetts, and New York City represent large labor and consumer markets where most nationwide businesses have a footprint, and to keep things simple, many organizations base their employment policies around the requirements of the most tightly regulated jurisdiction in which they operate. California law is well understood to affect national employment practices in this way: Because it is the most populous state and has some of the most stringent employment laws and regulations in the country, multi-state and multinational employers will often set their US policies to meet California’s standards rather than draft different policies for employees in different states.

New York City’s salary history ban is now beginning to have the same effect.

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New York City Amends Sick Leave Law, Adds ‘Safe Time’ for Domestic Violence Victims

New York City Amends Sick Leave Law, Adds ‘Safe Time’ for Domestic Violence Victims

The New York City Council passed an amendment to the city’s paid sick leave law last week that would require employers to grant paid time off as “safe time” to employees when they or a family member have been the victim of domestic violence, sexual abuse, stalking, or other “family offense matters,” according to Newsday’s Matthew Chayes:

The bill, Introduction 1313-A of 2016, passed unanimously, and extends existing rules governing an employee’s “earned” sick time, which accrues over the course of time on the job, to family abuse claims.

“Often times, women would miss appointments with either a DA, or miss appointments at the police precinct, or, unfortunately in cases, had to go and serve orders of protection, they had to go themselves and weren’t able to do that because they weren’t able to take the time off work,” said Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland (D-Queens), a prime sponsor of the bill.

Mayor Bill deBlasio has not yet signed the bill into law, but is expected to do so soon, and if he does, it will go into effect 180 days after his signature. At Lexology, a group of Jackson Lewis attorneys detail the circumstances under which employees would be entitled to “safe time”:

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New York City Mandates Predictable Scheduling for Fast Food, Retail Employees

New York City Mandates Predictable Scheduling for Fast Food, Retail Employees

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a suite of bills into law on Tuesday that will require fast food and retail employers in the city to provide employees with more predictable work schedules, Reuters reports:

A key component of the package is a requirement that fast food restaurants schedule their workers at least two weeks in advance or pay extra for shift changes. … The legislation also ensures that fast food workers have breaks of at least 11 hours between shifts and are given the option of working additional hours before their employers hire extra workers. …

The New York City package, which takes effect in six months, also would ban unpaid on-call scheduling of retail employees and would enable fast-food workers to contribute voluntarily to worker advocacy groups or other non-profit groups, but not unions, through payroll deduction.

With this legislation, New York becomes the third (and by far the largest) US city to take aim at the controversial practice of on-call scheduling, which San Francisco targeted in its 2014 “retail workers’ bill of rights” and Seattle banned in a law its City Council passed last year. Another such law is scheduled to take effect July 1 in the Bay Area city of Emeryville, CA, and similar scheduling bills have been introduced at the state level in Connecticut, Minnesota, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Oregon and Texas.

According to the New York Daily News, however, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo is working on a series of regulations that would preempt the city’s and offer employees somewhat weaker protections, albeit more than they currently enjoy:

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