The New York Labor Law is a comprehensive set of laws and regulations that serve to protect workers in New York state. These laws expand on the Fair Labor Standards Act, the federal labor law. They define the minimum wage and overtime pay, employment practices, holiday leave, sick leave, paid leave, and many other aspects. They also make sure that New York’s employers are complying with the law. However, if an employer neglects their duties, it is useful to know who to contact when New York Labor Laws are violated.
In 2019 alone, it is estimated that employees across the United States were cheated out of over $500 million in unpaid wagesThis means that workers who were paid unfairly (either below the minimum wage or not adequately compensated for overtime work or other) filed complaints and successfully recovered their rightful earnings.
Under the New York Labor Laws, all New York employees are protected, regardless of their national origin, immigration status, age, background, or previous job positions. Everyone has the right to a regular payment of wages based on their work in New York state.
First, let’s take a look at the most common New York State Labor Law violations.
Wage and Hour Law Violations
The New York wage and hour laws cover precisely that: wages and hours worked on a job. It sets the minimum wage for different parts of New York state, rules about frequency of pay, days of rest, meal breaks, wages or salary history, illegal deductions, wage theft, and much more.
There are two most frequent wage and hour violations you should be aware of:
- Minimum Wage Laws Violations
Arguably one of the most prevalent violations of the New York State Labor Law is paying workers below the minimum wage. The current minimum wage for workers in New York City is $15.00 per hour. Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester county’s minimum wage is $13.00 per hour, and in the rest of the state, it is $11.80 per hour. Starting on January 1, 2021, the minimum wage in Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester counties will increase to $14.00 per hour, and the rest of New York state will see an increase to $12.50 per hour.
These minimum wages may be different if you are working in the fast-food industry or are the type of worker who regularly receives tips. In case you’re paid less than that, your employer is obligated to increase your hourly rate of pay and pay back what they owe in unpaid wages (with possible liquidated damages).
- Misclassifying Employees
Independent contractors (freelancers) and employees are not one and the same. If an employer hires employees (by signing employment contracts), they have an obligation to pay benefits and other compensation for those employees. Sometimes, employers classify their employees as independent contractors when they are, in actuality, employees. This type of misclassification is often done purposefully in order for the employer to avoid paying overtime compensation and other benefits, which violates the New York Labor Law.
Another misclassification can happen if an employer classifies an employee as salaried when they should be paid hourly. This is a common violation that helps the employer avoid paying for overtime work.
Overtime Law Violations
Unfortunately, a frequent violation is that an employer treats an employee as exempt from overtime wages, when in fact, they’re not. Only employees with specific job duties (not job titles, but duties) can be exempt from overtime compensation, such as those working in administrative or executive positions. If an employee is not exempt according to the Fair Labor Standards Act, they have the right to overtime pay for every hour worked over 40 in a workweek.
The overtime wage is 1.5 times your regular pay rate for each hour worked overtime in New York state.
Who to Contact to File a Complaint
Whether your employer has violated any of the laws mentioned above or another one entirely, you have the right to file a complaint. Contact the experienced lawyers of Cilenti & Cooper to evaluate your claim and protect your rights.
Above all else, you shouldn’t hesitate to report your employer for a potential violation because you fear retaliation. There are special laws put in place to protect workers from employer retaliation in such cases. This also applies to workers who are immigrants, regardless of their immigration status.
Whistleblower and Retaliation Protection
A whistleblower is a person (most often a worker or an employee) who files a complaint about unlawful activity, such as Labor Law violations – fraud, unsafe work conditions, improper billing practices, or similar. It can also be an activity that represents a danger to public health (for example, toxic waste dumping).
If an employee has reported their employer for violating Labor and Employment Laws, that employer has no right to retaliate against the employee in any way. The New York State Labor Laws prohibit the employer from penalizing, discharging, or in any way discriminating against an employee for:
- making a public complaint about a possible violation,
- Commencing legal action,
- providing information to the Department of Labor,
- cooperating with a DOL investigation,
- exercising any employee rights under the Labor Law, and
- causing the employer to receive penalties or adverse determination.
You may report your employer for retaliation if your employer cuts your work hours; reschedules you for less desired hours; puts forth any disciplinary action; reassigns you to a less desirable location; demotes or transfers you; cuts your pay; puts you under more critical supervision, or anything similar because you reported them to the DOL.
New York Labor Laws Penalties
If an employer is found liable of violating any section of the New York Labor Law, this is treated as a misdemeanor. New York Employment Law violations can lead to monetary damages or imprisonment, or both.
If you are owed money, and your employer is found liable of wage theft, they will be ordered by the court to pay back those wages, plus liquidated damages as additional compensation. The same applies if your employer took away your tips since employees who are earning tips have every right to keep them at the end of a workday.
Even though the most common Labor Law violations are minimum wages and overtime pay violations, there are dozens, if not hundreds more, that your employer may be guilty of. If you think you have suffered from or witnessed a breach of the law, don’t hesitate to file a complaint.
Turn to Cilenti & Cooper to help you work out whether your employer is engaged in unlawful conduct. R
Contacting an employment law attorney to help you in this process is a good idea. Reach out to Cilenti & Cooper at (718) 841-7474.n.