The minimum wage has been a popular topic of conversation during recent years as the income gap continues to grow and more employees find themselves unable to make an adequate living. As of January, 2016, the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. This has remained unchanged since 2009. Before 2007, the minimum wage was stuck for ten years at just over $5.00 per hour.
In the meantime, many states have enacted laws that provide employees with a minimum wage that is greater than the federal minimum wage. New York has stayed ahead of the federal wage in recent years, and will apparently continue to do so. Under a plan unveiled by Governor Cuomo’s administration, beginning in 2016, the current statewide minimum wage of $8.25 will rise to $9.00 an hour for most employees.
At the same time, the hourly wage of approximately 200,000 fast food workers in New York State will rise to $9.75. The hourly wage of select fast food employees in New York City will become $10.50 an hour.
Under Cuomo’s plan, wages of those same 200,000 workers will continue to rise after that in three yearly increments – to $15.00 by the end of 2018 in New York City. They will rise for fast food workers across the rest of the state in six increments- to $15.00 by July 2021.
The $15 wage increase for fast food workers in New York only applies to those employed by large chains, which is defined as those with more than 30 locations nationwide.
The plan has its critics, some of whom worry about the ability of restaurants and other New York employers to support the wage increases. Others feel that the governor and his administration “overstepped” when they created and approved the plan. Essentially, the franchise owners who will be bound by this new plan claim that it is unfair to them. They feel that it gives an advantage to the smaller businesses that are exempt from having to pay their employees higher wages.
The National Restaurant Association brought some of these concerns to the New York Industrial Board of Appeals. The Industrial Board states that it has the authority to rule on whether or not the wage board and commissioner acted lawfully under state labor statutes and not the merits of the minimum wage plan itself.
The National Restaurant Association argued that increasing the minimum wage to $15.00 an hour was “unconstitutional, arbitrary, unsupported by evidence” and improperly focused on larger chains. It was, and is still, their contention that the administration improperly designated a distinction between fast food workers and fast food workers employed by or affiliated with larger companies.
According to the Industrial Board, during the initial development of the new minimum wage program, the wage board and labor commissioner found that existing wages were not sufficient to meet the workers’ cost of living, and “fast-food chains with 30 or more restaurants nationally are better equipped to absorb a wage increase due to greater operational and financial resources and brand recognition.”
Based on this finding, the Industrial Board ruled: “we find nothing in the statute to prohibit (the labor commissioner) from issuing a minimum wage order that classifies employees based on the number of locations their employers are affiliated with.” The board added, “the commissioner has authority under the law to investigate the adequacy of wages in any occupation, which can be done ‘for a subset of a segment of an industry’ and requires a record establishing ‘a factual basis for doing so.’”
The board ultimately concluded that the administration acted lawfully when it issued the minimum wage order that classifies employees based on the number of locations their employers operate. The National Restaurant Association intends to challenge this in court.
If you are one of the hundreds of thousands of hardworking New Yorkers trying to make ends meet, you should know what the new minimum wage rules mean for you and your future.
Make sure you are getting what you deserve and that your wages are being calculated fairly. You may want to speak with an experienced attorney if you think you are entitled to unpaid wages or other compensation like tips or overtime.
Feel free to call New York City wage and hour attorneys at Leeds Brown Law and let us help you understand what rights you may have. If they have been violated, we may be able to help you recover things like unpaid wages, tips and overtime.