Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About Wages, Hours and Overtime

You work hard.  You want to know that your employer is paying you what you have earned and is abiding by the laws governing workplace hours and overtime.  This can be tricky, though, because these laws are complicated.  If you have concerns about how your employer is handling wages, hours and overtime, this post should answer most of your initial questions and provide you with a base of knowledge to ask more complex questions.

What Laws Protect New York Workers With Regard to Wages, Hours and Overtime

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is a federal law that sets minimum wage and hour standards for most American employees. New York State laws provide additional wage and hour protections.

What Is New York’s Minimum Wage?

New York State’s 2016 minimum wage is $9.70 per hour. Under state law, the minimum wage will increase annually until it reaches $15.00 per hour for most employees. New York City, Long Island and Westchester have slightly higher minimum wage rates. However, different rules apply if you are a tipped employee, a farmworker, or a residential employee.

Do Minimum Wage Rules Apply to All Workers?

New York’s minimum wage laws do not cover everyone. Independent contractors, for example, are not entitled to the minimum wage. Additionally, certain employees are exempt from the minimum wage, including:

  • Most executives and professionals;
  • Outside sales representatives;
  • Taxicab drivers;
  • Ministers and clergy members;
  • Part-time babysitters; and
  • Apprentices and students obtaining work experience.

What Qualifies as “Work” or “Work Time” in New York?

Under federal and state laws, you should be compensated for any hours you spend working – whether you are “on” or “off the clock.” For example, if your employer provides you with a mobile phone and knows you handle work calls after standard business hours, you may be entitled to compensation for this work.  While your commute to and from your workplace is not considered “work time,” you should be paid for travel in between different work sites.

Does My Employer Have to Offer Paid Breaks?

Most full-time workers are entitled to an unpaid half-hour meal break. New York law does not require shorter breaks (like coffee breaks). However, if your employer permits short breaks (under 20 minutes), then you should be paid for this time.

When Do I Become Eligible for Overtime?

If you are a non-exempt employee, you are entitled to overtime pay (even if you are salaried). Overtime is paid to eligible employees who work more than 40 hours in a single week. Overtime is not calculated on a daily basis. In other words, if you work one longer-than-normal shift, you are not entitled to OT unless your weekly work time exceeds 40 hours. Overtime is paid at a rate of 1.5 times your regular hourly rate of pay.

Who Is a Non-Exempt Employee?

Non-exempt employees are entitled to minimum wage and overtime pay. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) determines who is a non-exempt employee. In 2016, the DOL issued new rules that make an additional four million workers eligible for overtime in the United States. Although many “white collar” employees are exempt, the DOL evaluates eligibility based on your salary and duties. Do not assume you are exempt simply because you are a manager or administrator.

What Can an Employer Deduct From my Paycheck?

Your employer may deduct insurance premiums, taxes, court-ordered child support, wage garnishments, and union dues from your paycheck. However, it cannot charge you for other expenses, such as the cost of cash shortages, breakages, or required uniforms.

I Was Terminated. When Should I Receive My Last Paycheck?

If you were terminated or quit your job, you should get your last paycheck at the next regularly scheduled pay period.  

My Employer Violated Federal and New York Wage and Hour Laws. What Compensation Can I Receive?

If your wage and hour claim is successful, you should be compensated for your unpaid wages and overtime. You may be entitled to additional compensation (sometimes called “liquidated damages” or “punitive damages”) if your employer willfully violated wage and hour laws.

How Long Do I Have to File a Wage and Hour Complaint?

Most laws have strict notice and filing deadlines (called “statutes of limitations”). The FLSA contains a two-year statute of limitations; New York wage laws contain a six-year statute of limitations. If you believe you are owed back wages or overtime, contact the New York State Department of Labor or a wage and hour lawyer immediately. If you miss a deadline, you cannot receive compensation for your lost wages.

Contact A Bronx Employment Lawyer

The laws governing wages, hours and overtime are technical and complex.  It can be difficult to know which law applies to your situation, and even more difficult to figure out if your employer is abiding by the law or (knowing or unknowingly) violating the law at your expense.  A consultation with an experienced wages, hours and overtime lawyer is the best way to ensure your rights are protected and you are being treated fairly.  If you would like to talk about your situation, please call or email us.  We will respond promptly.

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