Keeping in line with the national trend, New York lawmakers in Albany have proposed two significant raises to statewide minimum wage requirements, which will go into effect as early as December 31, 2015.
First, in his State of the State Address on January 28, 2015, Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed an increase to the state's minimum wage, which would raise it to $10.50 per hour by the end of 2016. An even higher hourly minimum wage of $11.50 was suggested for employees in New York City, to reflect the higher cost of living in the metropolitan area. This proposal functions as a compromise to exasperated New Yorkers without overturning longstanding precedent that prohibits municipalities in New York State from setting local wages above the state minimum. See Wholesale Laundry Board of Trade, Inc. v. New York, 17 A.D.2d 327, 329-30 (1st Dep't 1962).
Second, on February 24, 2015, the New York State Commissioner of Labor Mario J. Musolino adopted resolutions set forth by the Department of Labor's Wage Board that will significantly increase the wages and rights of tipped workers across the state. Most prominent among these was the resolution to increase the minimum wage for tipped employees to $7.50 per hour, effective December 31, 2015, and $8.50 per hour for tipped workers in New York City, contingent upon the State Assembly's adoption of a distinct wage for the City. Commissioner Musolino also adopted a recommendation to eliminate distinctions between tipped workers within the hospitality industry. Effective December 31, 2015, food service employees, service employees, and service employees in resort hotels will be treated equally under the Labor Law. The Commissioner rejected the Wage Board's recommendation that employers of tipped workers should be subject to enhanced tip credits, citing incongruity with the Wage Board's desire to simplify the regulations and rejecting the underlying assumption that tip allowances are a penalty rather than a substantive right to pay.
If and when these changes go into effect, New York State and New York City will become leaders in the nationwide Living Wage movement. The current statewide minimum wage is $8.75 per hour, and is set to increase to $9.00 per hour on December 31, 2015.
"Written by Kerry C. Herman, Associate at Sapir Schragin LLP. The views and opinions expressed herein are the author's own and do not reflect those of Sapir Schragin LLP."