Wages
- Your Rights to Wages - (Wages)
Hours and Time Off
- Work Hours and Time Off - (Hours and Time Off)
Classification
- Job Classification - (Classification)
Enforcement
- Wage and Hour Enforcement - (Enforcement)
Lawyers
- Wage and Hour Lawyers - (Lawyers)
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New York Wage & Hour FAQ

Get answers to common questions about wages, overtime, tips, breaks, and wage claims in New York.
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Wage and Hour Basics in New York
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Updated: 2021-05-05 by

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What Is the Minimum Wage in New York?

The minimum wage in New York is $12.50 an hour. Because this is higher than the federal minimum wage of $7.25, employees in New York must be paid at least $12.50 an hour. 

A handful of local governments in New York have passed their own minimum wage ordinances. Employees in New York City are entitled to earn the higher local minimum wage of $15 an hour, if their employer has more than ten employees; employees in Nassau County, Suffolk County, and Westchester County are entitled to earn the higher local minimum wage of $14 an hour. 

The minimum wage is the least you can be paid per hour, by law. You are entitled to earn at least the highest minimum wage that applies to you, whether the standard is federal, state, or local. The federal minimum wage is currently $7.25. If your city or state has passed a law setting a higher minimum wage, your employer must pay you at least that higher amount per hour; it cannot pay you the lower federal minimum wage instead. 

The minimum wage represents gross earnings: earnings before deductions, such as tax withholding, are taken. Your actual take-home pay may be less than the minimum wage.


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Who Earns Overtime in New York?

You qualify for overtime pay if:

  • you are paid by the hour
  • you are not exempt (for example, because you hold a “white collar” job), and
  • you work over 40 hours in a workweek (or 8 hours in a workday in some states).

If you are eligible for overtime, you are entitled to 1-1/2 times your regular hourly rate for each overtime hour worked. Check the New York State Department of Labor for the overtime standards in New York.

For more information about overtime eligibility, see Am I Entitled to Overtime Pay in New York?


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How Do I Calculate My Hourly Wage?

To calculate your hourly wage, take the total amount you are paid (whether by the hour, as a salary, by piece rate, or on commission) in a pay period, such as one workweek. Divide that total amount by the total number of regular time (not overtime) hours you worked to earn that money. Be sure to count every hour you worked, including time spent working from home (if allowed by your employer) and any break time for which you should be paid, including breaks that lasted 20 minutes or less and breaks during which you had to work. The hourly rate that you come up with must be at least the minimum wage in New York.

For more information about your pay rights, see What Are My Rights to Pay for Work in New York?


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What Is a Tip Credit?

A tip credit is the amount of tips you earn that your employer can count towards its obligation to pay you the minimum wage.

An employer that is allowed to take a tip credit can pay you less than the regular minimum wage, as long as you earn enough in tips to bring your hourly compensation up to at least the minimum wage. Under federal law, for example, the minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, but employers may pay tipped employees as little as $2.13 an hour, as long as the employee earns at least the rest in tips. An employer taking advantage of this lower minimum wage is taking a tip credit of $5.12 an hour. 

Not all states allow employers to take a tip credit. Some states that allow a tip credit set the minimum tipped wage amount at $2.13 an hour, like federal law; others have established a higher tipped minimum wage.

In New York, your employer may pay you less than the applicable state or local minimum wage, as long as you earn enough in tips to bring your total hourly pay up to the full minimum amount. The cash minimum wage that must be paid to service employees depends on the industry and area in which you work; check out the factsheet Minimum Wage for Tipped Workers for more information. 


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Are Tip Pools Legal?

Does your employer require you to pool tips? Tip pooling, sometimes called tip sharing or tipping out, is a common practice in establishments where only some employees receive tips directly from customers, especially restaurants. 

In a tip pool, tipped employees put a certain amount or percentage of their tips into a pot, which is then shared among a group of employees. Whether a tip pool is legal depends on who shares in the pool, among other things. 

The general rule is that tips belong to the employee who received them. However, employees can be required to pay part of their tips into a tip sharing arrangement, as long as it meets these legal requirements: 

  • The employer may not share in the tip pool. This includes managers and supervisors. 
  • If the employer takes a tip credit, then only employees who regularly and customarily receive tips may share in the tip pool. For example, wait staff, bussers, and bartenders may be part of the tip pool, but "back of the house" employees -- like cooks and dishwashers -- may not. (Employers that don't take a tip credit may allow back of the house employees to take a share of the tip pool, but only if state law allows it.)
  • Only the amount of tips an employee actually takes home counts towards any employer tip credit. In other words, if an employee has to share tips, the employee's hourly wage includes only what the employee got back from the tip pool, not what the employee had to put into the pot. 

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Am I Entitled to Breaks?

Believe it or not, employers in many states have no legal obligation to give their employees any breaks during the work day. The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not require employers to provide any breaks, and many states follow the same rule. Other states require employers to provide rest breaks, meal breaks, or both. 

A small number of states require employers to provide paid rest breaks during the work day.

Most New York employees are entitled to an unpaid meal break of 30 minutes if they work a shift of more than six hours that spans the noonday lunch time. Employees whose work days start after 1 p.m. and run for at least six hours are entitled to an unpaid 45-minute meal break. Employees who work more than eight hours may be entitled to an additional 20-minute meal break, unpaid, if their work day starts before 11 a.m. and runs past 7 p.m. 

Factory workers are entitled to a one-hour meal break.

New York law does not require employers to provide rest breaks. If your employer chooses to let employees take rest breaks, it must pay you for breaks that last for 20 minutes or less.


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How Can I Enforce My Wage and Hour Rights?

If your employer hasn't paid you overtime, hasn't given you legally required breaks, didn't give you a final paycheck, or has otherwise not paid you everything you are owed, you should take steps to assert your rights. There are three things you can do:

  • Complain within your company. Use your company's internal complaint process to raise your concerns. Ask the company to investigate and make the situation right. The law protects you from employer retaliation for asserting your wage and hour rights. 
  • File a wage claim. If your company doesn't resolve your complaint to your satisfaction, find out whether your state has an administrative wage claim procedure. In most states, you can file a claim with the state agency that enforces wage and hour laws. Your claim may be investigated, settled, or sent to an administrative hearing, where you can present evidence that you were not paid properly. It's a good idea to talk to an employment lawyer if you are considering filing a wage claim. A lawyer can help you word the complaint properly, present your best evidence persuasively, and reach the best possible outcome -- all while preserving your arguments for court, if things don't work out. 
  • File a lawsuit. If other avenues don't work, you can sue your employer in state or federal court for wage theft. At this point, you will definitely need legal representation to persuade a judge or jury to enter a judgment in your favor.  

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What Is a Wage Claim?

A wage claim is an administrative complaint you can make against your employer with your state department of labor. Most states have created a process for employees to file a wage claim with a government agency, so they can get their claims adjudicated and get the money they are owed, in less time and for less money than it would cost to file a lawsuit. Not every state has a wage claim procedure, however. Check the website of the New York State Department of Labor to learn more. 


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Do I Need a Lawyer for My Overtime or Wage Case?

In most cases, it makes sense to hire a lawyer to pursue your overtime or unpaid wage claim. This doesn’t mean you should hire a lawyer at the first sign of trouble, however. If you believe your employer hasn’t paid you fairly, start by raising the issue within your company. Ask your manager or your human resource representative about the problem, or file a complaint using your company’s internal complaint process. It is illegal for your employer to retaliate against you for making a wage and hour complaint, whether you make it within your company or to an outside agency or court. 

If your company does nothing to address your concerns – or breaks the law by firing or disciplining you for asserting your rights – then it’s time to talk to a lawyer. At this point, your options are to negotiate a settlement of your claims with your employer, file a wage claim against your employer with your state’s labor department (if your state has this type of procedure), or file a lawsuit. Having a lawyer will greatly boost your chances of success in any of these endeavors. And, because most lawyers work on a contingency fee basis in these types of cases, you won’t have to pay the lawyer unless you win. Learn more about finding a wage and hour lawyer

 


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How Do Wage and Hour Lawyers Charge?

Most lawyers that represent employees charge a contingency fee. This means the lawyer gets paid only if the client wins, and only out of the money the client receives as a settlement or court award. When you meet with a lawyer, ask how the lawyer charges, including what percentage he or she will take as a contingency fee. 

You will most likely have to pay the costs of litigation, including court fees, transcription costs, copying costs, and so on. Some attorneys will advance these costs for you, paying them out of pocket until the end of the case. If you win, you can use your award to pay the costs. 

 


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What Is a Class Action Lawsuit?

A class action lawsuit is a court case brought on behalf of a group of employees who have similar legal claims against their employer. In a class action case, one lawsuit decides the rights of all employees who are members of the class. 

It’s not uncommon for overtime and unpaid wage cases to be brought as class action lawsuits, if the employer applied an illegal policy to a group of employees. For example, if a retail employer required all employees to arrive at 8:30 a.m., spend half an hour cleaning the store and restocking shelves, and then clock in (and start to get paid) at 9 a.m., an attorney might bring a class action lawsuit on behalf of all employees who were subjected to this policy. 

Many wage and hour cases involve relatively small dollar amounts. Although every dollar you aren’t paid is undoubtedly very important to you, the overall value of your case might not be high enough to interest an attorney in representing you. When a number of employees combine in one lawsuit, the attorney can bring all of your claims at the same time and earn a higher fee. 

 


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Staten Island, NY: Law

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