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Important changes to New York wage and hour law take effect today and in 2015.

  • Minimum Wage:  Today, the New York State Minimum Wage increases to $8.75, which is substantially higher than the current $7.25 minimum wage under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.  New York employers are required to comply with the higher minimum wage rate under New York law.   Since 2011, the New York minimum wage has increased twice.  On December 31, 2013, the New York minimum hourly wage increased from $7.25 to $8.00.  The New York minimum wage is set to increase again on December 31, 2015 to $9.00 per hour.  Despite the increase of the basic minimum hourly wage, New York has not increased the minimum wage for Food Service Workers.  The New York minimum wage for Food Service Workers will remain at $5.00 per hour, provided that the worker earns at least $3.75 in hour on tips.
  • Notice of Pay Rate:  The New York Wage Theft Prevention Act  took effect on April 9, 2011.  The Act required New York employers to provide written notice of wage rates to each new hire.  In addition, employers were required to provide employees with written notification of their pay and related information annually prior to February 1 of each year.  On December 29, 2014, Governor Cuomo eliminated the required annual notification.  Consequently, the Department of Labor will not require employers to provide annual statements in 2015.  However, employers are still required to notify employees of their pay rate at the time of hire.

On December 9, 2014, the United States Supreme Court decided that hourly warehouse workers who retrieved products from warehouse shelves and packaged them for delivery to customers were not required to be compensated for the time spent undergoing security screening at the end of the work day.  Workers spent approximately 25 minutes a day waiting to be, and being, screened.  The case. Integrity Staffing Solutions, et al. v. Busk, No. 13-433, implicates the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA)  and Portal-to-Portal Act of 1947.

Congress amended the FLSA in 1947 to clarify the terms “work” and “workweek,” which the FLSA had not defined.  The  amendment, known as the Portal-to-Portal Act excluded from compensable work time  “activities which are preliminary to or postpreliminary to” the performance of an employee’s principal activities.   Subsequent Supreme Court precedent included as “principal activities” all activities that are an “integral and indispensable” part of the principal activities.

In rejecting the plaintiffs’ contention that the security screenings constituted compensable work time, the Supreme Court reasoned that the screenings were neither part of, nor “integral and indispensable” to, the principal activities of the workers’ activities, which was retrieving products from warehouse shelves and packaging them for shipment.  The Court was not swayed by arguments that the screenings were necessary to the plaintiffs’ primary work, because they were conducted to prevent employee theft.

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