wage hour law

Paid off the books? Your employers are (probably) crooks.

If you are being paid off the books, in cash or via personal check, your employer may be breaking the law. And you might be entitled to compensation.

Are you being paid off the books?  Chances are, your employer is breaking New York wage and hour law.  Just by failing to provide you with notifications regarding your wages and legally compliant pay stubs, your employer is breaking the law. 

If you are being paid off the books, you might be entitled to recover as much as $10,000 or more.

New York Labor Law requires employers to provide all employees with a wage notice when they start, spelling out the terms of their compensation.  The penalty for failure to do so can be as high as $5,000. 

New York Labor Law also requires employers to provide all employees with wage statements when they are paid, spelling out their rate of pay, deductions, and other wage-related matters.  The penalty for failure to do so can also be as high as $5,000.

The attorneys at Granovsky & Sundaresh can help you recoup this penalty - and maybe more.  We are experienced and aggressive wage and hour lawyers who fight to make our clients whole.  Not only will we examine whether we can recover these penalties for you, but we will also try to find other avenues to increase your recovery such as unpaid overtime, minimum wage or wrongful termination issues.

Call now. 646-524-6001. We have attorneys standing by to take your call. Or you can e-mail us - all e-mails receive a response within 24 hours.

I am being forced to work off the clock. What should I do?

In general, an employee’s “hours worked” include all time an employee must be on duty, or on the employer's premises or at any other prescribed place of work. All employees must be paid for all time worked. So if your employer is forcing you to work off the clock, you may be entitled to additional compensation (even if you are paid a salary).

Common examples of work off the clock:

  • Your employer asks to you set up, open a store or facility prior to clocking in.
  • Your employer makes you clock out for a meal break, but nonetheless makes you work during that period.
  • Your employer automatically deducts some period of time from your hours (usually for an assumed “break”), but does not compensate you for work you performed during that time.
  • Your employer asks you to clock out and then, after you are clocked out, perform additional work (e.g. cleaning up, shutting down, etc.).

Am I entitled to additional compensation:

Probably. This comes down to a determination of whether an employee is exempt or non-exempt. For further information that should help you determine whether or not you are exempt, these links may be helpful:

What to do if you are being forced to work off the clock:

  • Collect the facts – you need to get a sense of how much you are working off the clock, whether any additional employees are also working off the clock. Get any documents you have about off the clock work together.
  • Contact an employment lawyer – get a better understanding of your rights. We offer a free initial consultation. In most situations involving work off the clock we do not collect a fee unless we get recovery for our client.  Contact us today for a free consultation.

The Companionship Exemption

Effective January 1, 2015, the Federal Fair Labor Standard Act’s minimum wage and overtime protections will extend to workers who provide essential home care assistance to elderly people and people with illnesses, injuries or disabilities. The revisions to the law narrow the definition of “companionship services” (and therefore limit the use of the companionship exemption) and prohibit third party agencies or home health care companies from claiming the companionship exemption. Under the revised rules, the companionship exemption is limited to an individual, family or household employing a home care aide. In order to legally use the companionship exemption and avoid paying a home care aide overtime, such aide must (1) provide “companionship services” to an elderly person or a person with an illness, injury or disability who needs help in caring for himself (2) for at least 80% of the total hours such aide works per week.

The term “companionship services” is defined as the provision of fellowship and protection. The term “fellowship” means to engage the person in social, physical and mental activities and “protection” means to be present with the person in their home or to accompany the person outside of the home in order to monitor his safety.   The Department of Labor has provided examples of activities that satisfy the meanings of “fellowship” and “protection”, which include conversation, games, crafts, accompanying the person on walks, and going on errands, appointments or social events with the person.

The exemption is available even if the aide provides “care” so long as (1) the care is provided attendant to and in conjunction with the provision of fellowship and protection and (2) if it does not exceed 20% of the total hours worked per week. The exemption will not be available and the employee will be entitled to minimum wage and overtime if the employee spends more than 20% of his time per week providing care. “Care” is defined as assistance with activities of daily living, which include dressing, grooming, feeding, bathing, toileting and transferring and instrumental activities of daily living, which include meal preparation, driving, light housework, managing finances, assisting with taking medications and arranging medical care. The exemption is also not available if the employee provides household work that goes beyond the benefit of the elderly person or person with a disability like doing laundry or preparing meals for other household members.   Lastly, the definition of companionship services does not include the provision of medically related services that would typically be performed by trained personnel and if the employee provides any medically related services he will be entitled to overtime pay.

Can a third party home health care agency use the companionship exemption now? No. Under the revised rules any home care aides hired through a third party agency cannot be exempt from minimum wage and overtime coverage. The exemptions for aides who mainly provide “companionship services” or for live-in domestic service employees (as described below) are limited to the individual, family or household using the services and explicitly do not extend to third party providers. Such providers must pay its home care aides (1) an hourly rate that is at least minimum wage (currently $8/hour in New York) and (2) time and a half ($12/hour) for all hours worked in excess of 40 hours per week.

Live-In Domestic Service Employees. Live-in domestic service workers who live in the employer’s home permanently or for a period of time and are employed by an individual, family, or household are exempt from overtime pay but they must be paid minimum wage. However, live-in workers who are solely or jointly employed by a third party must be paid at least minimum wage and overtime pay for all hours worked.  But employers of live-in domestic service workers may enter into agreements to exclude certain time from compensable hours worked (such as sleep time, meal time and other periods of time where the employee is completely free of work duties). Such employers must maintain an accurate record of hours worked by live-in domestic service workers but may require the employee to record his or her hours worked and to submit the record to the employer.

Additional Information. The U.S. Department of Labor has created a portal for both employers and employees regarding the law changes summarized in this memo: http://www.dol.gov/whd/homecare/

If you have any questions regarding the companionship exemption and compliance with the new laws, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Payment of Commissions After Termination

Are commissioned employees entitled to payment of commissions after termination of employment?

The answer depends on how and when the commissions are earned.

A commission is payment to an employee based on a percentage of sales, orders, or other measures of performance.

New York Labor Law requires that commissioned salespeople receive a written agreement setting forth:

  • a description of how wages, salary, commissions, draw and all other monies earned are calculated and paid;
  • How often the employee gets paid (which has to be at least twice a month);
  • Frequency of reconciliation (if the employee is paid a draw); and
  • Any other details regarding payment of wages, draw, commissions, etc.

Also, upon written request, the employer is required to provide the employee with an earnings statement setting forth earnings paid, or due and unpaid.

When do commissions become "earned"?

Commissions become "earned" depending on the terms of the written agreement (see above).  Thus, if your employment is terminated, but the commission was earned, the employee is entitled to payment of commissions after termination. If the agreement does not address when commissions are "earned," then a determination of when the commission is earned depends on the past dealings between the employee and the employer.  Lastly, if there is no agreement and no past dealings, the commission is considered "earned" when the salesperson produces a buyer ready, willing and able to enter into a contract with the employer.

Questions?  Please contact us.  We can help!

Q&A: NY Overtime Law | NY Overtime Pay

Do I have an overtime claim? If you think that you may have an overtime claim, chances are that you do.  Below are a few frequently asked questions about New York Overtime Law that can help you to determine whether you have an overtime claim or a claim under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) or NY Overtime Law Law.  If you think you are entitled to overtime, you should contact us for a free consultation.

Q: What do the terms overtime hours and overtime pay mean?

Overtime hours means the time an employee works more than 40 hours per work week.  Under federal law and the NY Overtime Law, overtime pay must equal at least one and one-half times an employee's regular rate of pay. So, if an employee regularly makes $10/hour, that employee is entitled to make $15/hour for all the overtime hours he or she works.

Q: Who must be paid overtime pay?

Most employees are entitled to overtime pay.  You are probably entitled to overtime pay unless your job is an "executive," "administrative," and "professional" positions.  Whether or not you fall into one of these categories depends on the specific nature of your job.  If you have questions about NY Overtime Law, you should talk to a lawyer.

Q: What if I have no written records or proof of the hours I worked?

You do not need written records or proof of the number of hours you worked. It is the employer's duty to maintain certain records regarding your work hours and pay.  If your employer does not have those records, your testimony under oath will be sufficient to prove your claim.

Q: Do I have to be paid overtime pay for working more than eight hours in one day?

No. Overtime pay must only be paid when you work more than 40 hours in week, and not more than eight hours in any one day.

Q: What if my employer tells me that I am an independent contractor?

You may still be entitled to overtime pay because your employer may be wrongly telling you that you are an independent contractor. Whether or not you are an independent contractor depends on a variety of factors that we will need to discuss with you before we can give you an answer.

Q: What if I work 30 hours in one week and 50 hours in the next week, can my employer average the two weeks to avoid paying me overtime?

No. This is a common method employers use to avoid paying overtime. The averaging of workweeks is expressly prohibited by law. You are entitled to receive overtime pay for each individual week you work more than 40 hours. In the above example, you are entitled to receive overtime pay for the 10 hours you worked more than 40 hours in week two.

Q: Is it legal that I am paid "comp time" instead of overtime?

Unless you work for the state or federal government, an employer providing compensatory or "comp time" instead of overtime pay is illegal.

Q: My employer tells me I am exempt from the overtime pay laws, am I?

Not necessarily. You are exempt based on your job duties and responsibilities and not based on what your employer calls you. It makes no difference if your employer calls you exempt or gives you a job title such as "manager" or "supervisor." It is a common practice for employers to give workers the title of "assistant manager" to avoid paying overtime when those employees are not exempt and should be paid overtime.

Q: Can I still be entitled to overtime pay if I am a salaried rather than hourly employee?

Yes. This is one of the common misconceptions about overtime pay. You are not exempt just because you are paid a weekly salary. If you are not otherwise exempt under the FLSA, your employer must convert your weekly salary to an hourly rate and pay you time and a half for all hours worked in excess of 40 hours.

Q: When should I file a claim against my employer?

The longer you wait the less overtime pay you may be able to recover. It is also best to promptly pursue your claim so that time records and witnesses are readily available.

Q: Can my employer fire me for bringing an overtime claim against it?

No. It is illegal for an employer to fire or in any way retaliate against an employee because he or she has filed a claim for overtime against the employer. We will help protect you if your employer tries to retaliate against you for filing an overtime claim.

Q: What should I do if I believe that I am owed overtime pay?

You should seek legal advice. The overtime laws are highly technical and we can help apply the law to your special situation. Our experienced NY Overtime Lawyers provide free consultations and will tell you if you are owed earned wages and if we can help you.

Q: How much does it cost to file a claim?

In most cases, all costs for overtime and unpaid wage cases will be advanced by our firm. Because our fee is typically contingent on a recovery from the employer, the firm does not get paid or reimbursed for expenses until the recovery is made.

Q: Do I have to pay attorneys fees to you if I lose my case?

No. We will only receive a fee if we are successful in resolving your claim.

Independent Contractor or Employee?

Independent Contractor or Employee? Far too often, employers erroneously misclassify individuals as independent contractors or employees.  In an attempt to save money, many businesses use independent contractors to serve functions typically served by employees. Classifying someone as an independent contractor often means the business does not have to pay minimum wage or overtime to the individual.

In determining whether someone is an independent contractor or an employee the U.S. Department of Labor uses what is known as the "Economic Realities Test," which contains the following factors:

  • the degree to which the person's work is controlled by the organization;
  • the individual's investment in facilities and equipment, if any;
  • the individual's opportunities for profit or loss, if any;
  • the amount of any initiative, judgment, or foresight the person uses in open-market competition;
  • the permanency of the relationship; and
  • whether and to what extent the individual's work is an integral part of the organization's business or activities.

If you have any questions about your classification as an independent contractor, please contact us for a free initial consultation.

Administrative Exemption to Overtime Pay

Both the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and the New York Minimum Wage Act (“NYMA”) generally require the payment of overtime wages for work performed after 40 hours per week.  For some general information on overtime and misclassification issues, please see our prior blog posts here, here and here. The FLSA and the NYMA exempt employees who work in a bona fide administrative capacity from the overtime pay requirements.

To meet the Administrative Exemption (and therefore have no entitlement to overtime pay), each of the following must be true:

  1. The Employee’s primary duty consists of the performance of office or non-manual field work directly related to management policies or general operations;
  2. The Employee customarily and regularly exercises discretion and independent judgment;
  3. The Employee regularly and directly assists an employer or an employee employed in a bona fide executive or administrative capacity or who performs under general supervision, works along specialized or technical lines requiring special training, experience or knowledge; and
  4. The Employee is paid for his or her services on a salary basis of not less than $543.75 per week.

If you believe you have incorrectly been classified as exempt from overtime pay, you should contact one of our NY Overtime Pay Attorneys.

Wage & Hour Employment Law for NY Small Business

Small business owners in New York are often so inundated with the day-to-day hustle of increasing revenue, marketing, and actually working, that they often overlook federal and state wage and hour laws.  But be warned: failure to properly pay employees can significantly harm your business.  However, a few simple pointers will go a long way towards avoiding a devastating wage and hour class action: First, pay your employees the minimum wage.  Sounds easy enough.  The minimum wage in New York and New Jersey is $7.25/hour.  But there’s a bill in New Jersey to increase the minimum wage to $8.50/hour (see this prior blog entry).   And make sure to pay the minimum wage for all hours worked (and see this entry).

Also, as we’ve previously discussed, classify your employees correctly (see this entry).  In terms of classifying your employees as exempt or non-exempt from overtime pay, it is advisable to err on the side of non-exempt.  And don’t think that just because you give an employee a title like “manager” it changes anything -- titles are meaningless and what matters is the nature of the work that the employee actually performs (for more detailed information, please visit http://www.dol.gov/whd/overtime_pay.htm).  The same goes with respect to classifying your employees as employees or independent contractors -- err on the side of employee.  To be an independent contractor, the individual must be truly “independent” (e.g., is available to work for other employers, uses his/her own materials, sets his/her own hours, etc. but for more detailed information, please see http://www.comptroller.ilstu.edu/downloads/20-factor-test-for-independent-contractors.pdf).

Keep good records.  It is worth investing in an automated system which tracks employees hours worked and all compensation paid to employees.  This way you can prove exactly how much a given employee worked and how much he or she was paid for their time.

The last point is probably the most obvious of all:  it is better to be safe than sorry.  The potential damages in wage and hour actions can be financially devastating to a small business -- you are better off treating your employees as non-exempt, paying them for all time worked, and when necessary contacting an employment lawyer, than defending a legal battle that will likely not end well.

If you are a small business owner in NY and have any employment law questions, please contact us for a free initial consultation.