New York’s Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman (AG) announced that his office reached an agreement with First Realty Management Co., Inc. and the Legacy Senior Living (Legacy) complexes it operates in the Rochester, New York area. A former employee at one of Legacy’s facilities brought an issue to the AG’s office which led to an investigation into minimum wage violations.
The AG’s investigation determined that Legacy failed to pay 15 workers minimum wage. These 15 employees called Live-In Safety Coordinators were on call from 8 pm until 8 am, to provide emergency aid to residents. The workers also performed 10 hours a week of light maintenance and housekeeping duties. The employees did not receive any cash wages. Legacy instead, gave them an apartment and utilities for free or at a reduced rate for as long as they stayed employed as Live-In Safety Coordinators.
The AG concluded that “based on the number of hours worked by the employees, Legacy was required to pay cash wages in addition to providing the living accommodations to bring these employees’ hourly pay up to the required minimum wage.” Legacy has agreed to pay $238,000 in back pay to the 15 employees and $89,000 in interest, damages, and penalties.
Under state law, payments may include cash and non-cash benefits. The use of an apartment and meals, for example, may qualify as wages under certain circumstances. But, the value of the credit an employer can use is capped by the law.
The law states: “When a house or apartment and utilities are furnished by an employer to an employee, a fair and reasonable amount may be allowed for such facilities, which amount shall not exceed the lesser of either the value of prevailing rentals in the locality for comparable facilities or the following amounts.” The amount of the allowance varies depending on where in NY the business is and its size but is about $7.75 per day. It was lower during the period under investigation.
The AG’s office concluded that based on the number of hours the 15 live-in employees worked, the cap on the apartment allowance, and the amount of the legal minimum wage, Legacy should have been paying them cash wages in addition to the non-cash benefits. At times, one employee was earning the equivalent of $2.00 per hour. During the period in question, the minimum wage for these employees should have been somewhere between $8.00 and $9.00 per hour.
The bottom line in New York is that employees are entitled to receive minimum wage. Even if you get tips or non-cash benefits from your job, the law requires that allowances and credits for non-wage compensation receive a particular value. The employer must contribute the proper amount of cash wages to ensure that the total compensation does not fall below the minimum wage. The goal is always for employees to receive fair and legal pay.
If you work in New York City, Long Island or the surrounding counties, make sure you are earning the wages legally owed to you. You may be happy to have room and board, but you may be entitled to cash payments as well.
Contact Leeds Brown Law, P.C. to protect your right to collect unpaid wages. We can help you recover overtime, minimum wage, tips and other compensation your employer owes. Call us 24/7 at 1-800-585-4658. Your consultation is free.