New York State Minimum Wage
The minimum wage is a pre-determined amount that is the lowest an employer is legally allowed to pay you.
Commonly found in jobs paid per hour (rather than via salary), the minimum wage differs throughout the United States.
Although there is a federal minimum wage (currently set at $7.25 an hour), many states choose to implement higher minimum wage entitlements to ensure that residents can have a good standard of living.
Knowing your minimum wage entitlement isn’t always straight-forward. Different cities may implement their own minimum wage requirements even if they are within the same state.
You may also find that different types of workers, different sectors and different size organizations are bound by different rules.
Let’s take a look at the minimum wage in New York State.
The concept of a minimum wage first came into effect as part of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). This was signed by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1938.
The Act promised that employees would receive a minimum of 25 cents an hour as part of a federal minimum wage.
Since 1938, the federal minimum wage has continually increased, before reaching $7.25 in 2009. This remains in place today.
The first official minimum wage for NY was put into effect in October 1960. It promised $1 an hour and has continued to rise steadily ever since.
The state of New York (NYS) has long offered higher minimum wage entitlements to employees in comparison to the federal minimum wage.
The current NYS minimum wage stands at **4.55 above the current federal minimum wage.
Throughout New York State, many individual cities have chosen to implement their own minimum wage requirements.
Later in this article, we will break down how the NY minimum wage can vary.
It should be noted that the minimum wage will always favor the employee. If there is a difference between a federal, state or city wage, the employee will always be entitled to the highest possible amount.
If you live in New York City, you may find that your minimum wage entitlement changes depending on the size of your employer.
Those working for ‘large’ firms (companies with more than ten people) will be entitled to $15 an hour.
If your company employs ten people or less, then it will legally be classed as a ‘small’ company. As such, the legal minimum wage is $13.50 per hour.
Although the NYS minimum wage is already generous in comparison to the federal wage, there are plans in place to continually increase wages until they are capped at $15 per hour.
In December 2020, minimum wages in NYS will increase from 14 for those in Long Island and Westchester County. It will also rise from 12.50 per hour for those in the remainder of the state. This is an increase of 70 cents per hour.
The minimum wage will continue to have incremental rises until it reaches $15 across the entire state.
It is thought that cities such as Buffalo or Rochester will reach the $15 minimum wage in 2024 (based on an expected 70 cent increase per year).
The annual increase has been backed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo who says:
“In New York, we believe in a fair day's pay for a fair day's work, and we won't stop fighting until every hardworking New Yorker is paid the fair wages they deserve".
New York State has been divided into three separate regions:
- New York City
- Long Island and Westchester County
- The remainder of the state
This is because the local economies differ throughout the state, and each location has vastly different living costs.
As such, the New York State minimum wage varies.
Here is a breakdown of the changing minimum wage throughout the state over the past few years and how it compares to the federal minimum wage ($7.25).
|New York City (large employer)||$11.00||$13.00||$15.00|
|Comparison to federal minimum wage||+$3.75||+$5.75||+$7.75|
|New York City (small employer)||$10.50||$12.00||$13.50||$15.00|
|Comparison to federal minimum wage||+$3.25||+$4.75||+$6.25||+$7.75|
|Long Island and Westchester County||$10.00||$11.00||$12.00||$13.00||$14.00||$15.00|
|Comparison to federal minimum wage||+$2.75||+$3.75||+$4.75||+$5.75||+$6.75||+$7.75|
|Remainder of New York State||$9.70||$10.40||$11.10||$11.80||$12.50||TBC|
|Comparison to federal minimum wage||+$2.45||+$3.15||+$3.85||+$4.55||+$5.25|
As you can see, over the previous five years, the minimum wage in NYS has been generous in comparison with the federal minimum wage.
You can also see how wages have been capped in New York City, and how other cities are starting to catch up on wages via a phased schedule.
Adding to the complexity of minimum wage legislation is the fact that different industries are impacted differently by minimum wages.
Those who are typically on different wage structures include fast-food workers, tipped workforces (such as waitstaff) or app-based drivers (such as those working for Uber or Lyft).
Drivers working for companies such as Uber or Lyft have their very own minimum wage which was implemented in December 2018.
Their pay rate is set at 26.51.
Due to the popularity of fast-food restaurants throughout the state, there is a special minimum wage which is specifically for chains operating 30 or more branches.
In New York City, employees should already be earning a minimum of 13.75, although this is due to rise to $14.50 from 31 December 2020.
A further wage increase will take place on 31 July 2021 where it will reach the required $15 hourly rate.
If you work in a job role that relies on tips (such as waitstaff or bartenders), then your minimum wage will differ.
Employers can include tips as part of your paycheck – they will likely pay you a smaller cash wage and provide a tip credit.
The New York State Department of Labor has broken down the minimum employer contributions as follows:
|New York City||Long Island and Westchester||The Remainder of New York State|
|Service employees||$12.50 cash wage + $2.50 tip credit||= $15||$10.85 cash wage + $2.15 tip credit||= $13||$9.85 cash wage + $1.95 tip credit||= $11.80|
|Food service workers||$10 cash wage + $5 tip credit||= $15||$8.65 cash wage + $4.35 tip credit||= $13||$7.85 cash wage + $3.95 tip credit||= $11.80|
As you can see, the blend of employer contributions and tip credits total the minimum wage requirements.
Some professions are not eligible for the New York State minimum wage. This is because they may be exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
To be classified as exempt, you will typically earn a salary rather than an hourly rate and work in an administrative, executive or professional role.
If you are classed as an exempt employee, you will also not be eligible for any overtime payments for time worked beyond 40 hours a week.
Under the terms of the FLSA, there are also some categories of employees who can be paid lower than the federal minimum wage, under the status of ‘subminimum wage’.
This means that certain workers can be paid less than $7.25 an hour.
These include student-learners (those undertaking a vocational course) and full-time students who may be working in sectors such as retail or service industries.
Subminimum wage employees can also include employees with a physical or mental disability which may hinder their ability to perform.
If an employee is hired on a subminimum wage, the employer must secure a certificate from the Wage and Hour Division at the Department of Labor.
It is important that you feel able to enforce your employer to pay the NYS minimum wage.
The law makes it clear that employers must pay the highest rate as defined by federal, state or individual city requirements. Therefore, even though the federal minimum wage is set at 15 is the minimum wage, then $15 is the amount that the employer must pay.
Companies who fail to pay their workforces the required minimum wages may put themselves at risk of criminal prosecution.
The New York governor welcomes the efforts of hard-working New Yorkers. This is shown through the continual amendments to the minimum wage limits.
Minimum wages not only ensure that hard work is duly rewarded, but they also help employees to remain motivated as they can see that their paycheck will increase in line with inflation.
The breakdown of the state into three distinct regions showcases the differing economies throughout the state.
It’s positive to see that different standards of living and affordability have been taken into account through the planning of the New York State minimum wage legislation.
It’s also welcome that so-called ‘unskilled’ sectors such as retail, services and fast-food restaurants have been recognized for their contribution to the economy and are benefiting from high levels of minimum pay.
With a $15 hourly target in place across the state, residents can expect to be paid more than double the federal minimum wage and this can have a hugely positive impact on the economy as a whole.
This is because when people have more disposable income, they are more inclined to spend their money locally. This can, in turn, support fellow businesses and boost local economies.