Despite opposition from business groups, a minimum wage increase will take effect as scheduled, after Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office concluded that the coronavirus economic recovery was “not likely to be substantially harmed” by the increase.
Upstate, the minimum hourly wage increases from $11.80 to $12.50.
Minimum wage workers in Westchester County and Long Island will see a $1 increase, from $13 per hour to $14 an hour.
Within the next several years, all minimum wage workers in the Empire State are slated to earn $15 an hour, which is the current minimum hourly wage in New York City.
In a statement, the governor’s office said “This investment in our workers once again proves that in New York we believe a fair day’s work deserves a fair day’s pay.”
Greg Biryla, New York director of the National Federation of Independent Business, said the minimum wage hike “defies logic,” given the economic hardships caused by the coronavirus.
Minimum Wage Pros and Cons
As mentioned, the minimum wage is already $15 an hour in New York City.
In the Big Apple, $15 an hour is just barely enough to raise a family of four above the poverty line.
In other areas of the Empire State, about $13 or $14 an hour is enough to raise a family above the poverty line.
“A rising tide raises all ships” is another popular, and mostly true, minimum wage slogan. In other words, if people making the minimum wage get a raise, everyone else gets a raise as well.
Finally, New York’s unemployment rate might be relevant. In 2019, that rate was under 4 percent, even though lawmakers had been gradually increasing the minimum wage for several years.
So, there is solid evidence that minimum wage increases help individual workers and help the overall economy.
There is just as much proof that minimum wage increases hurt workers more than they help them. This evidence is usually based on practical applications.
Assume Mike owns a donut shop on Long Island. The shop is very busy between 6 and 9, and pretty quiet between 9 and 12.
Mike employs Steve, a minimum wage worker, who wipes the tables, runs the register, and so on.
Steve might be looking forward to a healthy raise since Long Island’s minimum wage is increasing. But instead of paying the increase, Mike could send Steve home as soon as 9 o’clock, when business slows down.
In other words, Steve’s hourly pay increases slightly, but Mike cuts his hours in half. Steve loses.
Your Right to a Minimum Wage
The overuse of unpaid interns is a disturbing trend in this area. Once upon a time, an unpaid internship was essentially an extended, unpaid job application.
Interns who worked hard and grasped key concepts usually got full time offers.
But the world is different now. At many companies, unpaid interns are essentially entry level employees.
According to the Department of Labor, if the primary beneficiary is the employer, who gets free labor, as opposed to the intern, who gets experience, the intern is probably an employee who should at least be paid the minimum wage.
But the law is very uncertain on this point, especially in New York.
Additionally, food service workers do not always earn the minimum wage.
For waitstaff and other customer-facing employees, a negligible hourly wage usually supplements their tip income.
The combination of tips and salary must exceed the minimum wage. These rules are changing in January, so check your pay stubs carefully.
Typically, the minimum wage is a net measurement as opposed to a gross measurement. In other words, if employers deduct money for “expenses,” these deductions cannot drive take-home pay below the minimum wage.
Other Workplace Rights
Our New York commercial litigation attorneys are just as concerned with some other employee rights as they are with the right to a minimum wage.
You have the right to a discrimination-free workplace. People in protected classes have special protection, even in an at-will employment state like New York.
Protected classes include ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation (including gender identity), age, national origin, and disability.
Maliciousness is not an element of a discrimination claim.
Many employers have policies which disproportionately affect certain groups.
For example, a mandatory Saturday policy could be religiously discriminatory.
You also have the right to a harassment-free workplace. Employers cannot tolerate a hostile work environment or base decisions on any quid pro quo. Remote workers have the same rights as those who go to offices.
At Napoli Shkolnik PLLC, we stand up for individuals when companies try to run roughshod over their individual or economic rights. If you have any issues in these areas, call us now.