Nearly 41% of low-wage workers in New York are hurt by wage and hour violations every year, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Employers steal an estimated $3,200 annually from New York workers who make minimum wage. And up to 5% of workers in New York are being paid less than the minimum wage. That’s all illegal, but violations of federal and State labor law are frighteningly common.
How New York Workers Win Back Stolen Wages
Both federal and New York State law guarantee employees a fair minimum wage and overtime pay for their extra hours, but thousands of employers don’t play by the rules. Do you have any options? Yes, you can get that money back. And so can your co-workers.
New York State law empowers workers to pursue compensation for their stolen wages in civil court. If you were the victim of a minimum wage or overtime violation in New York, you may be able to file a lawsuit and demand the money from your employer.
Even better, both the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and New York’s Wage Theft Prevention Act impose extra financial penalties on employers who break the law. When employees win a wage and hour suit, courts often award them “liquidated damages,” additional compensation usually equal to the total amount of owed back wages. In short, many workers could be able to secure double their stolen pay, not the base amount of back pay.
Contact Our New York Overtime Attorneys
Not sure how to get started? Contact our experienced wage and hour attorneys today for a free consultation. We can help you understand your rights as an employee in New York, then discuss the options for moving forward. It all comes at no charge and no obligation.
WageAdvocates.com is sponsored by a national coalition of lawyers committed to defending the rights of American workers. Laurence P. Banville, Esq., one of the site’s lead sponsors, is licensed to practice law in the State of New York. Alongside our other attorneys, Mr. Banville fights for employees who have been underpaid and disrespected every day. We’ve helped employees win millions of dollars in back wages.
The Minimum Wage In New York
New York might have the most complicated minimum wage laws in the country. Part of the confusion is because New York’s labor laws are currently in transition, as the State moves toward a $15 per hour minimum wage in 2021. After that year, the State’s minimum wage will be pegged to multiple economic indices, including the Consumer Price Index.
The current 2017 minimum wage for New York State is $9.70 per hour. Fast food workers, however, are entitled to a higher wage, at least $10.75 per year. All of that will change on December 30, 2017, when the State minimum wage is set to rise to $10.40 per hour and the rate for fast food workers increases to $11.75. At least, that’s true if you don’t live in New York City, Long Island or Westchester County.
New York City
New York City, as the economic capital of the world and home to nearly 9 million residents, has its own minimum wage laws. In New York City, the 2017 minimum wage is $10.50 for people who work at companies with 10 employees or fewer and $11 per hour at larger businesses. Fast food workers are entitled to at least $12 per hour.
But as in the rest of the State, all of that will change on December 31, 2017. The City’s minimum wages for 2018 will rise to $12 per hour (for small companies) and $13 per hour (for large companies). The fast food minimum wage will jump to $13.50.
Long Island & Westchester County
Then we have Long Island and Westchester County, where the 2017 minimum wage is $10 per hour. That will rise to $11 per hour on December 31, 2017. The minimum wage for fast food workers on Long Island or in Westchester County is the same as for the rest of the State, at $10.75 per hour in 2017 and $11.75 per hour in 2018.
NYS Overtime Laws
While New York’s minimum wage laws don’t follow federal standards at all, the State’s overtime requirements are fairly normal. There’s only one exception and it comes when an employer takes a credit against the minimum wage to account for a worker’s tips. But we’ll get to that in a moment. First, let’s take a look at how New York handles overtime wages normally.
How To Calculate Basic Overtime Wages
It’s pretty easy. When you work more than 40 hours in a week, every hour over 40 should be paid at an overtime rate. And your overtime wage should be 1.5 times your normal one. If you make $12 per hour, your overtime wage is $18. If you make $10 per hour, your overtime wage is $15.
Now, let’s put it all together. Assume that you worked a 50-hour week at a minimum wage (non-fast food, large-sized company) job in New York City. For you, New York City’s minimum wage (for 2017) would be $11 per hour. Your overtime wage would be $16.50, since that’s $11 per hour times 1.5. You’re going to be paid minimum wage for the first 40 hours of work that week. 40 hours at $11 per hour comes out to $440. Your 10 overtime hours, though, should be multiplied by $16.50, your overtime wage. That’s a total of $165 in overtime wages, which we can add to your normal pay of $440 for a grand total of $605.
A “Tip Credit” Changes The Picture
Let’s say that you work at a minimum wage job, but also make tips. If you work overtime in any given week, New York State law has specific rules to cover that situation. Under both federal and State law, employers can take a “tip credit” when workers make a fair amount of tips. New York’s regulations on taking a tip credit are so complex that we had to make an entire guide to cover them. You can check out our complete guide to New York’s minimum wage requirements here.
How Does A Tip Credit Work?
For the purposes of this article, it should suffice to explain that, when employers take a tip credit, they’re reducing the cash wage they pay workers in proportion to the amount of tips that a worker makes. If done legally, a worker should still be making at least minimum wage. It’s just that their tips balance out any reduction in the cash wage the employer takes. What does that look like in practice? Here’s another example.
Imagine that you work for minimum wage Upstate at a restaurant. One week, you work 36 hours and make a total of $108 in tips. We need to convert that total amount of tips into an hourly rate. That’s easy. Just divide $108 by 36 hours to get $3 in tips per hour. Checking our number against New York’s list of “tip thresholds” (found at the New York Department of Labor), we can see that, in Upstate New York, a worker has to make at least $2.15 per hour in tips to qualify for a tip credit.
You fit the bill, so your employer can reduce your cash wages by a maximum of $1.65 per hour for the week. Your new cash wage should be $8.35. And, for 36 hours of work, that brings you to total cash wages of $300.60 on the week.
Adding Up Overtime When You Make Tips
Now that we’ve covered the basics of taking a tip credit, we can factor in the question of overtime. So assume that, instead of working 36 hours, you worked 45 hours at that same minimum wage job. You’re eligible for overtime, because you worked more than 40 hours, but you also made $108 in tips for the week. Your employer is allowed to pay you $8.35 for the first 40 hours of work, but they can’t use that number to calculate your overtime wage. Instead, New York State law says that your employer has to use your regular rate of pay before the tip credit is removed.
In our example, that would be the minimum wage in Upstate New York, $9.70 in 2017. That’s the number we’re going to multiply by 1.5, to get $14.55. But $14.55 isn’t your overtime wage. This is when your employer can apply the tip credit, by subtracting $1.65 from $14.55 to get $12.90, your actual overtime rate. Your normal rate of pay is $8.35, because your employer took a tip credit. Your overtime wage is $12.90, which also includes the tip credit, but it took a little longer to get there.
In the end, your first 40 hours of the week can be paid at $8.35, for a total of $334. And your 5 overtime hours are paid at $12.90, which comes out to $64.50. Add them together and you get total compensation of $398.50 in cash wages.
When Employers Violate The Law
It’s not hard to see that New York’s minimum wage and overtime rules are very complex. They’re also in flux, changing in drastic ways every single year. That’s led to significant confusion among both employees and employers. Thousands, maybe even millions, of workers in New York have lost out on their earned wages simply because their employers made an innocent mistake following the new laws.
In other cases, we’ve seen New York employers craft schemes to knowingly dodge the rules, ripping off hard-working employees for thousands of dollars in normal wages and overtime pay. Whether or not your employer meant to steal from you doesn’t matter. A violation of the law is a violation of the law, plain and simple.
You are entitled to all of they money that you’ve earned, in accordance with federal and State laws. But very few employers will simply pay you the back wage that you’re owed. While you should always try to talk to your boss first, millions of American workers have been forced to sue for their back wages. That’s often the only way to get paid.
Learn More In A Free Consultation
Our experienced minimum wage and overtime attorneys can help. To learn more about filing a lawsuit, contact our lawyers now for a free consultation. Our goal is to make the process of securing back wages as easy as possible for our clients.
We put a focus on clear communication and make ourselves available whenever you need help. And we always pursue the maximum compensation available under the law, so you can get back to building a good life for your family and loved ones. Even better, our attorneys always offer their services on a contingency-fee basis. That means you owe us nothing until we secure compensation in your case. If we don’t win, you don’t pay.