Wages Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the current minimum wage?

For most non-tipped individuals who perform work in New York State, employers must pay $8.00 per hour as of December 31, 2013. The state minimum wage rate is generally applicable to all employees, although there are certain exemptions, set forth in Labor Law § 651(5).

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2. What is overtime pay? Am I entitled to overtime pay?

Overtime pay is a higher pay rate for hours worked after 40 in a work week. Most employers are required to pay 1 ½ times your regular rate of pay (instead of your regular rate) for hours worked after 40 in a work week.

Example: A worker who receives the minimum wage of $8.00 per hour is entitled to overtime pay of $12 per hour (1 ½ times the regular rate) for any hour he or she works after 40 hours in a work week. A worker who is paid a regular rate of $12.00 per hour is entitled to overtime pay of $18 per hour (1 ½ times $12 per hour) for any hour worked past 40 in a given week.

Almost all workers are entitled to overtime pay, but there are some exceptions.

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3. I receive tips, how much is my employer required to pay me?

Your employer may be able to pay you less than the normal minimum wage if:

  • You regularly receive tips as part of your job;
  • Your hourly tips and wage add up to at least the normal minimum wage;
  • Your employer informed you that it is paying you less than the minimum wage because you regularly receive tips; and
  • The employer keeps a weekly record of the amount of tips you earned each week

Even if all of the above is true, the employer is still required to pay you at least the following, depending on your type of job:

Type of Job

Basic Hourly Rate

Overtime Rate
(for hours worked after 40 in a week)

- Restaurant or Hotel Service employees

$5.65 /hr if your tips add up to at least $2.35/hr 

$9.65/hr 

- Food service (e.g., wait staff)

$5.00 /hr if your tips add up to at least $3.00/hr

$9.00/hr

 

 

 

Most Other Types of Business

$6.05/hr if your tips add up to at least $1.95 per hour

$10.05/hr

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4.Can my employer fire me for reporting violations to the Attorney General's Office or to the Department of Labor?
No. You have the right to report violations and it is against the law for your employer to retaliate against you, or punish you in any way for reporting violations. Employers who retaliate against workers for reporting violations are subject to a $10,000 penalty per violation, in addition to being liable for lost compensation and up to $10,000 per violation in liquidated damages.

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5. How often am I legally entitled to be paid?

It depends on your job. New York Labor Law section 191 generally provides:

If you are:

Then you are entitled to be paid:

A Manual Worker

At least once a week, not more than a week after the wages were earned

A Commission Salesperson

As agreed, but at least once a month – on written request, you are also entitled to a statement of earnings due

Another Type of Worker

At least twice a month, on a regular pay day designated in advance

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6. What about meals and breaks? Is my employer required to give me time to eat? And does my employer have to pay for that time?

For employees whose shift is over six hours per day, your employer must give you at least a half hour of uninterrupted time to eat. There are other requirements as well, depending on the precise hours of your work shift. However, any breaks of over 20 minutes do not have to be paid. Breaks shorter than 20 minutes must be paid.

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7. Am I legally entitled to paid time off, such as vacation, holiday and sick days?

The law does not require most employers to provide any paid days off.  However, your employer can be required to keep any promise it made to provide vacations, holidays or sick days

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8. Can my employer make deductions from my pay?

Only for deductions which are required by law (e.g., payroll taxes, child support orders, wage garnishments), or if a deduction is both expressly authorized by the employee in writing and for the benefit of the employee, and is for items such as:

  • Payments for insurance premiums;
  • Pension or health and welfare benefits;
  • Charitable contributions;
  • Purchase of savings bonds;
  • Union dues or assessments; or
  • Similar payments for the benefit of the employee

Besides not being allowed to deduct money from your pay, the employer also cannot require you to make a payment by separate transaction. For example, if a worker damages the employer’s property or makes a mistake that costs money, the employer is not allowed to recoup by deducting money from the worker’s pay or making the worker pay it back.

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9. What can I do if the employer isn’t paying me wages that I am owed?

Employees have a right to sue to collect wages, but it is often more practical to complain to the Labor Standards Division of the New York State Department of Labor, which has many local offices around the state. To find the nearest office, you can check the Department of Labor’s website at http://www.labor.state.ny.us/. You can also contact New York Attorney General’s Labor Bureau at 212-416-8700.

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10. The employer isn’t paying me wages I am owed, and says this is because it doesn’t think my immigration papers are in order. Can they do that?

An employer is not allowed to deny wages a person earned, or to refuse to follow other labor laws, because of someone’s immigration status. If the employer is doing this, contact New York Attorney General’s Labor Bureau at 212-416-8700.

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11. Am I entitled to “Split Shift” or “Spread Shift” Pay? What are they?

If your hours of work are “split” (not consecutive), or if shift lasts more than ten hours, you may be entitled to one additional hour's pay for the day, at the New York State Minimum Wage hourly wage rate ($8.00).

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12. I was required to report to work, but sent home when I arrived. Am I entitled to pay?

If you are required or permitted to report to work, even if you are not assigned actual work, you may be entitled to "call in pay." Usually, restaurant or hotel workers are entitled to three hours’ pay at the applicable minimum rate, and employees in other private workplaces are entitled to four hours’ pay at the applicable minimum rate.

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13. I am not in a union and do not have an employment contract. My employer wants to reduce my salary or change my hours or my job, and says I will be fired unless I accept the change. Can he do this?

Yes. If you are not in a union and do not have an employment contract, an employer may change the conditions of employment, including salary, provided that he or she pays at least the minimum wage and any required overtime, and continues to follow any other applicable laws. An employer may not, however, change your salary after the fact for time you have already worked.

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14. Am I legally entitled to a wage higher than the minimum wage, such as the “prevailing wage” or a “living wage?”

If you work under a contract – either a union contract or an individual contract – then the employer has to pay you the wage the contract calls for. Even without a contract, some workers may be legally entitled to a wage higher than the minimum wage, depending on the type of work and location.
For example, employees performing work on a “public works project” – usually, construction projects performed for a government or public agency - may be entitled to a “prevailing wage” determined by the New York State Department of Labor’s Bureau of Public Work or (for jobs in New York City) the New York City Comptroller’s Bureau of Labor Law. NY Labor Law sec. 220. Some building service workers, such as janitors, are also entitled to the prevailing wage when working under a government’s or public agency’s contract. NY Labor Law sec. 230. For more information about prevailing wage requirements, contact the New York State Department of Labor, Bureau of Public Work at (800) 662-1220 or the New York City Comptroller’s Bureau of Labor Law at (212) 669-3500. Some local laws within New York State require that certain employees working under a contract with the local government receive a “living wage” set by the law. Check with your local government to see if such laws apply to your employment.

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15. What other laws protect me as an employee? 
There are other laws that protect workers. For example, federal, state, and local anti-discrimination laws prohibit discrimination against employees based on a number of factors, including race, religion, national origin, sex, disability, age, and other factors. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) enforces workplace safety and health laws. The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) ensures a worker's right to organize and join a union. And the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides job protection for certain workers who must take limited leave for medical or family purposes.  

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