Minimum Wage Laws in NY
Minimum wage is a legal term that defines the minimum amount that an employee can be paid for a specific unit of time in a given state, region, city, or industry. This minimum payment amount can’t be reduced by an employer through any kind of contractual agreement with a group or with an individual. In other words, employers can’t ask their employees to sign a document saying that the employee is willing to accept payment that’s lower than minimum wage. Legally, employers are required to comply with minimum wage laws or face civil or criminal penalties. Employees who have worked at lower than minimum wage have the right to seek recompense through the New York State Department of Labor.
In New York State, minimum wage laws are set to protect the interests of employees and make sure they don’t receive pay that is unduly low. Employees, after all, should share in the progress and success of the companies they work for. Minimum wage helps to ensure that it’s not just the owners of businesses who get to enjoy a reasonably high quality of life as a result of a profitable business, but that workers also enjoy the fruits of a successful enterprise. Minimum wage laws are in place to prevent the development of poverty and to reduce issues related to inequality. Employees are often on the front lines working with the nuts and bolts of businesses, doing the work that keeps things running smoothly. It’s important that New York employees receive proper compensation for this work.
In this article, we discuss minimum wage laws and answer frequently asked questions about the minimum wage in New York. At the end of the article, we provide a list of the top 5 minimum wage jobs in New York.
In Part I of this article, we provide a breakdown of the applicable minimum wage laws for businesses in different regions of the state as well as the laws that apply to different industries and different business sizes (including large and small employers). In the past, large employers and small employers had different minimum wage requirements in New York City. Today, minimum wage requirements for differently sized businesses in New York City must pay the same rate. Different regions outside of New York City are subject to different minimum wage laws and indeed, employers who employ individuals in the food industry may be subject to minimum wage requirements that differ still from businesses in other industries. If you believe that you are not receiving proper remuneration for your work, read this section first to determine the correct minimum wage that your employer is obliged to pay based on industry and location within the state of New York.
In Part II of the article, we provide answers to important questions about minimum wage in New York State. This FAQ section provides more detailed answers to questions that employees need to understand to ensure that they’re receiving the correct wage from their employers. If employees believe that they are not receiving the correct wage, Part II provides contact information so that employees can take action. Often, it isn’t necessary for employees to go to court to receive compensation for wages owed by employers who were underpaying them. Rather the New York State Department of Labor can demand proper payment for unduly low wages to ensure that employees who have been underpaid don’t experience the additional stress of having to go to court to get the correct payment.
Part III is a short list of the top 5 minimum wage jobs in New York State. The list is meant to give minimum wage workers an overview of special perks above and beyond just wages that have caused these 5 jobs to rise to the top. Since the minimum wage has been increased in the state over the past few years, there are now a number of jobs at this pay rate that provide desirable perks in addition to a livable income. Minimum wage jobs often provide accessible work opportunities to individuals who don’t have a college education or other skilled training. Some minimum wage jobs provide entry into industries that allow employees to work their way up to a higher salary over time through training and education.
Part I - Minimum Wage Laws in NY
The minimum wage laws in New York State were developed by the Director of the Division of Budget as a reflection of the economic status of New York residents. Currently, there are scheduled annual increases in the minimum wage in many areas of the state (outside of New York City). These wage increases must be published each year (starting in 2021) by October 1st to ensure that employees are aware of the increases which are generally put into place on December 31st. Employers who fail to execute the minimum wage rate increase at the proper time will be subject to severe penalties including the cost of the underpayments, damages, interest, and civil penalties as high as 200% of the unpaid wages.
New York State Minimum Wage Laws
The minimum wage in New York is the lowest permissible wage according to the law, or according to a special contract, such as one that has been developed by a labor union. Laws that govern minimum wage are meant to protect employees from being paid less than a certain amount that is determined, to some extent, by reference to cost of living standards. According to the law the minimum wage can’t be artificially reduced by an employer even through an individual contract with an employee or through a collective agreement.
The purpose of minimum wage standards is to ensure that workers receive an equitable share of profits so that when businesses are successful, employees get to reap some of the benefits. In New York State, the minimum wage was set to prevent the development of insurmountable poverty and to eliminate the issue of inequality for both men and women. All wages in all industries throughout the entire state of New York are required to be at or higher than the minimum wage.
The Minimum Wage Act in New York State is a Labor Law. It requires that all employees receive no less than $11.80 per hour. This law was put into effect on December 31, 2019 and it remains in effect today. In the state of New York, the minimum wage rates differ depending on several factors including type of industry and region where the business is located. The minimum wage is scheduled to increase annually in all regions until it reaches $15.00/hour. The next scheduled increase is set to happen on December 31, 2020. In regions where the minimum wage is already set at $15.00 per hour, there are no increases scheduled at this time.
The minimum wage is enforceable and the New York State Department of Labor can provide assistance to employees who have not been paid the minimum wage for their work. The proper payment amount can often be collected from employers without having to go to court, but employers who violate the Minimum Wage Law are subject to civil penalties and criminal prosecution for the underpayment of employees.
Employers who fail to pay their employees the proper wage in New York may be required to pay the following:
● The underpayments plus liquidated damages
● Civil penalties up to 200% of the wages that were not paid
Employees who have been underpaid for their work can file a complaint at 1-888-4NYSDOL (1-888-469-7365). Claim forms can be downloaded here. The completed form can then be mailed to:
New York State Department of Labor
Division of Labor Standards
Bldg. 12, Rm. 185C,
State Office Campus, Albany, NY 12240
Different Minimum Wage Rates in NY
In New York State, there are different minimum wage rates for businesses located in different regions, businesses of different sizes, and businesses in different industries. Each year, the minimum wage is increased in certain regions of the state on December 31st. These annual increases will continue until the minimum wage is at $15.00 per hour (or $10.00 tipped wage) for all categories of businesses in all regions of the state. All employers are required to post an informational poster in their place of business that educates employees about minimum wage.
New York City, Long Island, and Westchester all have differing rules regarding minimum wage. In New York City itself, the minimum wage was once differentiated between large employers (employing 11 or more workers) and small employers (employing 10 or fewer workers). Prior to 2019, large and small employers paid different minimum wage rates to their employees but now, both large and small employees are required to pay $15.00 per hour.
There is no rate increase scheduled in the near future for minimum wage workers in New York City, but starting in 2021, annual minimum wage increases will be published on or before October 1st by the New York Commissioner of Labor. Increases in the minimum wage will be determined on the basis of economic indices such as the Consumer Price Index. The minimum wage essentially follows the percentage increases of the various indices used by the Direct of the Division of Budget.
Workers in the fast food industry and workers who receive tips have different minimum wage requirements and the current wage requirements will remain the standard until December 30, 2020.
Below is a detailed overview of the minimum wage for different types of businesses in different areas of New York State:
NYC - Large Employers
In New York City, large employers are defined as businesses that employ 11 or more workers. Starting December 31, 2018, all large employers are required to pay their employees $15.00 per hour. The minimum wage that large employers must pay is not currently scheduled to go up because it’s already at the $15.00 mark that’s required by the New York State Department of Labor.
NYC - Small Employers
In New York City, small employers are defined as businesses that employ 10 or fewer workers. Just like large employers, small employers must pay their New York City employees a minimum of $15.00 per hour and there are no rate increases currently scheduled.
Long Island and Westchester
In Long Island and Westchester, employers of any size (both large and small) must currently pay their employees a minimum wage of $13.00 per hour. The minimum wage will stay at this level through the end of 2020. On December 31, 2020, the minimum wage will increase to $14.00 per hour and stay at that rate through the end of that year (2021). At this time, the wage will increase to $14.00 per hour and remain at that level through December 30, 2021. On December 31, 2021, minimum wage in Long Island and Westchester will increase to $15.00 per hour.
Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester Counties
In Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester Counties, the current minimum wage is set at $13.00 per hour and is scheduled to increase annually until it reaches $15.00 per hour.
Remainder of New York State
Businesses located in the remaining areas of New York State (the areas not mentioned above must currently pay their employees a minimum wage of $11.80 per hour. The next rate increase is scheduled to take place on December 31, 2020. At this time, the rate will increase to $12.50 per hour. Rate increases will continue throughout the rest of the state until minimum wage reaches $15.00 per hour.
Fast Food Workers
There are special rules regarding minimum wage for fast food employees. Fast food workers in New York City must receive $15.00 per hour as a minimum wage. Outside of New York City, the minimum wage for fast food industry workers is $13.75 per hour.
The minimum wage rates for tipped workers varies by region. Both large and small employers in New York City must pay their employees no less than $10.00 per hour (with credit for tips received at $5.00 per hour). In Long Island and Westchester, the minimum wage is $8.65 per hour (with credit for tips received set at $4.35) and in the remaining areas of the state, the minimum wage is $7.85 per hour (with credit for tips received at $3.95).
Part II - Minimum Wage FAQ
Do all employers in New York State have to pay the minimum wage?
No. Though the vast majority of employers in New York State must pay their employees the minimum wage according to their region, there are certain exceptions where the employer may not need to pay the minimum wage, or where the minimum wage requirements are different. For example, in the case that an employee (or group of employees) works in a different state, the company will be required to pay that employee according to different minimum wage requirements. They will not be beholden to New York State minimum wage requirements in this case. There are other exceptions to the rule as well, which can be found at this link: https://labor.ny.gov/workerprotection/laborstandards/faq.shtm
There are also certain groups of people who are not included in the group of individuals who are eligible to receive minimum wage in New York State. These people include taxi drivers, government employees (with exceptions), part-time babysitters, students receiving vocational training and experience, outside salespeople, and executives and administrators who usually earn more than 75 times the minimum wage rate..
Is there a lower minimum wage rate for trainees or youth?
No, there is not a lower minimum wage rate for trainees or youth employees. All companies in New York state are expected to pay the same minimum wage rate to every employee, regardless of age or training status.
Does the minimum wage rate depend on where a business is located, or where employees work?
Minimum wage must be paid according to the location of the employee. If a New York company employs someone out-of-state, they will not be required to pay that individual according to the New York minimum wage requirements. The company will instead be required to pay the employee according to the minimum wage requirements of their own state rather than those dictated by New York State or New York City. Within the state of New York, there are different minimum wage rates that vary according to region. For example, Long Island and Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk counties, and all other areas not located within these regions and not within New York City limits have their own minimum wage requirements that are listed above.
Does the minimum wage depend on the size of a business? (in NYC it does)
In most of New York State, minimum wage is not determined by the size of the business. However, in New York City this is not the case. There are 2 categories of employers: large employers and small employers. Large employers are those companies or businesses who employ 10 or more employees. Businesses with fewer than 10 employees are small employers. Large employers and small employers each had their own minimum wage rate that they were required to pay their employees in the past. Currently both large and small employers in New York City must pay a minimum wage of $15.00 per hour.
Do bonus payments or commissions count toward minimum wage?
Bonus payments and commissions are counted as incentive pay. The rules for these types of payment methods vary according to a variety of factors. Generally speaking, however, bonus payments are rarely counted towards minimum wage because they are considered “extra” payments awarded to an employee who has done their job well. The rules on commission payments are different.
Commission salespeople must be paid minimum wage and commission. Their employers are not exempt from the minimum wage requirements. Commission salespeople are those whose primary job in a company is to do sales and who spend a lot of their time working in the office on-site. Employers of outside salespeople, in contrast, are not subject to minimum wage requirements in most cases. Keep in mind, there are some extenuating circumstances under which an employee may be both an outside salesperson and a commission salesperson. Employers must look closely at the New York Department of Labor laws to ensure that they are following the minimum wage rules for each of their employees. For a more detailed description of the difference between outside and commission salespeople in New York State and more information about the wage requirements for commission sales people, visit this link: https://labor.ny.gov/legal/counsel/pdf/payment-of-commissions-frequently-asked-questions.pdf
What overtime rate applies if employees work in different minimum wage regions?
The minimum overtime rate is one and a half times the employee’s normal pay rate. Although this is simple math when an employee works in one minimum wage region, if the employee works in two (or more) regions then the calculations for overtime pay are more complicated. To calculate overtime for these employees, the employer must take the gross earnings of the employee and divide them by the hours worked to get the average rate. Then, they will multiply that number one and a half times to get the overtime pay that’s required by law.
Must an employer notify employees about the minimum wage increase?
Yes, absolutely. Every employer must notify employees about increases in minimum wage. Besides letting employees know directly through a meeting or in an email (as some businesses choose to do), New York State requires that employers hang a poster to notify employees of the official increase. Employers will be provided with the appropriate materials to post informational material about minimum wage for their employees.
Does the minimum wage law apply to jobs with tips?
Yes. Employees who work at jobs with tips must also be paid the minimum wage in New York. However, the minimum wage is lower for waiters and individuals in the hospitality industry or other similar industries that involve tips. Nonetheless, employers must pay a minimum cash wage in addition to providing their employees with a tip “allowance”. The cash wage paid per hour may be below the minimum wage rate so long as the tip allowance is enough to where the employee will still receive the same minimum wage amount after tips.
At the time of this writing (2020), the minimum wage in New York State is $10/hour for tipped jobs (with some variation depending on the employment institution and type of work).
Who should I contact if my employer is violating minimum wage laws?
Employers who have violated minimum wage laws are subject to civil action and criminal prosecution and penalties in New York State. They may be taken to civil court and required to pay minimum wage underpayments, along with liquidated damages, as well as interest and/or civil penalties for up to 200% of the unpaid wages.
If your employer is violating minimum wage laws, contact the New York State Department of Labor right away. They are responsible for collecting underpayments to give to undercompensated workers. Court action isn’t always required, but may occur in some situations. Employees who have been underpaid are not typically required to go to court to receive recompense.
Contact the New York Department of Labor using the following contact information:
Part III - Best Minimum Wage Jobs in NY
CDPAP, otherwise known as the Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Program, is a New York State Medicaid funded program that allows patients to choose their own caregiver. This allows family or friends of a patient to become their caretaker while getting paid. This is perfect for people in lower income situations who need to be able to balance work and family more effectively, or for individuals who just want to be able to derive some financial gain (and the possibility for additional training and career advancement) from the work of being a home care aide for a family member.
This job is particularly well suited to people who are looking for employment where they can make a difference. Though being a home care aide can be a tough job, it can also be extraordinarily rewarding. And, with a growing elderly population in New York State, there are more and more people who are looking for qualified, friendly home health aides to take care of them or their loved ones during old age.
2. Food Preparation
Food preparation workers are employed in many different contexts, including restaurants, schools, cafeterias, hospitals, grocery stores, and hotels. Food preparers work under the supervision of chefs or cooks and perform routine tasks according to a specific method dictated by the person who is in charge. For example, a food preparer may be required to cut vegetables or fruits for the chef or head-cook to use in dishes. Most of the time, this is a job that requires very few qualifications and minimal experience. However, it can be a good job still for someone specifically interested in going into food service or hospitality since there is still room for growth and advancement.
Besides the fact that there are few qualifications needed to get this job, getting a food preparation job is a good choice because there are so many job openings available. As a minimum wage job, the pay may not be as high as it is in other jobs within the food service industry, but you can be sure that you’ll always be able to find a job relatively quickly and easily.
3. Movie Theater Usher/Ticket Taker
Working in a movie theater is another minimum wage job in New York that is in comparatively high demand that requires minimal skill and experience to get started. As a movie theater usher or ticket taker, you’ll be responsible for making sure that movie-goers do indeed have tickets to get in, and you’ll also help them find their seats (in the case of an usher). Being a movie theater usher or ticket taker can be an interesting and enjoyable job for people who are interested in the theater, film, or motion picture industry because ushers and ticket takers often get to watch the movies and theatrical performances that are going on when they’re at work. It can also be a good job for individuals who like to socialize and meet new people on a regular basis in a fun environment.
4. Farm Worker
Farm work is usually seasonal and it is in comparatively high demand. While some people enjoy the idea of working outside on a farm, this isn’t the most popular job for many Americans, so the demand for hard-working, dedicated farm workers who are legitimately interested in the work involved definitely exists. In some cases, farm work may include lodging and food, though in many cases the costs of accommodation and meals are deducted from the wages provided. Nonetheless, for some individuals this is a good situation that offers a lot of security and opportunities to work in nature. Farm work usually (though not always) requires that employees have some previous experience, or that they are willing to undergo some training.
Cashier jobs are some of the most popular and prevalent minimum wage jobs in New York State, and there are jobs absolutely everywhere that are available for the taking. As a cashier, you’ll have some very important responsibilities, such as managing the money box on your shift and ensuring that customers are satisfied before they leave. Thus, because there are some important details required by this job, many cashiers must undergo a week or more of training to become acquainted with the requirements of the job as well as the technologies involved. But, overall, cashier jobs are usually simple and the training involved is minimal.