New York State Minimum Wage Laws 
New York’s minimum wage changes each year. According to the New York Minimum Wage Act, the state minimum wage will increase incrementally each year until it reaches $15 per hour. For most of 2020, for example, the statewide minimum wage was $11.80. On December 31st, 2016, when the state originally enacted the law, the minimum wage was $9.70.
As of December 31st, 2020, most New York employees should receive a minimum of $12.50 for each hour worked. However, these payment schedules vary based on industry, location, and employer size.
State & Local Minimum Wage
New York divides its minimum wage schedule into four categories: employees working for large employers in New York City; employees working for small employers operating in New York City; employees in Long Island and Westchester; and the remainder of New York state employees. The state defines large New York City employers as companies that have 11 or more workers. Small New York City employers have 10 or fewer employees.
The minimum wage will increase every year on December 31st until every worker in the state achieves a $15 minimum wage and $10 tipped wage. The New York Commissioner of Labor publishes these wage increases on or before October 1st of each year.
The 2021 minimum wage schedule is as follows.
- Large employers in New York City must continue to pay a $15 minimum wage. These employers reached the $15 threshold on December 31st, 2018.
- Small employers in New York City must continue to pay a $15 minimum wage. These employers reached the $15 threshold on December 21st, 2019.
- Employers in Long Island and Westchester must pay a $14 minimum wage. The state projects that these employers will reach the $15 threshold at the end of 2021.
- The remainder of New York state employers must pay a $12.50 minimum wage.
Minimum Wage Exceptions
Most New York employers must adhere to minimum wage laws, even if their employees are part-time, seasonal, or not legally authorized to work in the United States. However, there are certain exceptions to the minimum wage requirements.
In particular, New York follows a different minimum wage schedule for tipped workers. If a worker makes tips, his or her employer may pay the worker less than minimum wage. This exception only applies if the worker’s total pay—wages plus tips— is equal to the required minimum wage.
The state sets a limit on the tips that an employer can apply to a worker’s wage. This means that an employer cannot justify a $7 minimum wage by claiming a tipped employee receives $8 in tips per hour. For example, a large New York City employer who employs tipped food service workers must provide a minimum wage of $10. The employer can apply a maximum of $5 in tip credits to an employee’s hourly wage.
What If an Employer Refuses to Pay Minimum Wage?
Employers who refuse to follow New York’s minimum wage laws can face serious penalties. It is also illegal for an employer to retaliate against an employee who asks for minimum wage. If you are a New York employee who does not receive the appropriate minimum wage, you can file a complaint against your employer to recover any unpaid wages, waiting time penalties, and interest.
In these situations, you need a New York wage and hour attorney on your side. Your lawyer can help you file your complaint so you can recover the wages you deserve. Contact your attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case.