New York State’s minimum wage increased effective December 31, 2019. This increase is part of the legislation signed by Governor Cuomo in April 2016 that will eventually, through small increases at the end of every year, raise the statewide minimum wage to $15.00 per hour.
On December 31, 2019, the general minimum wage for employers throughout the majority of the state increased from $11.10 to $11.80 per hour. In New York City, the minimum wage for all size businesses is $15.00 per hour. In Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties, the minimum wage is $13.00 per hour. As such, Western New York Employers are subject to the $11.80 per hour rate.
The differences in minimum wage throughout New York State are based on where the employee is working, not where the employer is located. For example, after the raise on December 31st, if an employer has its main office in Buffalo, but it has a satellite office in Westchester, the employer could choose to pay all employees a minimum of $13.00 per hour. Alternatively, it could choose to pay the employees working in the Buffalo office a minimum of $11.80 per hour and those in the Westchester office a minimum of $13.00 per hour. The employer would not be able to pay all employees $11.80 per hour even though its main office is in Buffalo.
While the minimum wage varies in different parts of the state, it also varies across some select industries, including hospitality and agriculture. For instance, those working in Fast Food Establishments have a higher minimum wage than the general minimum wage. A Fast Food Establishment is a business that: (1) primarily serves food or drinks; (2) offers limited service where customers order and pay before eating; and (3) is part of a chain of 30 or more locations, including individually-owned establishments associated with a brand that has 30 or more locations nationally. Effective December 31, 2019, the minimum wage for Fast Food workers in New York City is $15.00 per hour and for those throughout the rest of the state, it is $13.75 per hour.
Employers who do not comply with New York’s minimum wage laws may be subject to criminal prosecution, civil action, and other penalties. If an action is brought and it is determined that the employer failed to pay its employees the appropriate minimum wage, the Commissioner of Labor may require the employer to pay the minimum wage underpayments in addition to interest and civil penalties up to 200 percent of the unpaid wages.
If employers have any questions about New York’s increasing minimum wage, they should contact their attorney to ensure that they understand and comply with their rate of pay obligations.