wage hour lawyer

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.

Proposed Changes to FLSA Overtime Rules - Part I

On June 30, 2015, the United States Department of Labor (DOL) released proposed regulations that would amend various provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  In particular, the DOL proposed changes to the regulations governing the “white collar” exemption for executive, administrative, and professional employees.   The FLSA (and wage and hour laws, generally) are complicated but we will try to break down the key changes as simply as possible.

FLSA Overview

The FLSA generally requires employers to pay its employees at least the federal minimum wage plus overtime at a rate of at least 1.5 times the employee’s regular rate of pay for any hours worked over 40 in a week.  However, the FLSA provides for various exemptions from the overtime requirement.

The most commonly used exemptions are for executive, administrative, and professional employees, and are often referred to as the “white collar” exemptions.  However, the FLSA does not define the terms “executive,” “administrative,” “professional,” or “outside salesman” and the regulations have generally required that each of the following three tests be satisfied for the exemption to apply: (1) the employee must be paid a predetermined and fixed salary that is not subject to reduction because of variations in the quality or quantity of work performed (the “salary basis test”); (2) the amount of salary paid must meet a minimum specified amount (the “salary level test”); and (3) the employee’s job duties must primarily involve executive, administrative, or professional duties as defined by the regulations (the “duties test”). 

The regulations also exempt “highly compensated” employees who “customarily and regularly” perform one of the exempt duties of an administrative, executive or professional employee, but who do not otherwise meet the duties test.  Currently, and since 2004, an employee earning $100,000 in total annual compensation (with at least $455 paid weekly on a salary or fee basis) would be exempt from overtime as a highly compensated employee.

Salary Basis Test – NO CHANGE

There were no proposed changes to the first requirement that employees be paid on a predetermined and fixed salary that is not subject to reduction.

Salary Level Test – BIG CHANGES!

Currently, and since 2004, any employee earning less than $455 per week ($23,660 a year) is considered “nonexempt” and therefore entitled to overtime pay for hours worked over 40 in a week, regardless of whether the employee is paid on an hourly or salary basis.

Under the DOL’s proposal, the salary level required for an executive, administrative or professional employee to qualify for exemption from the FLSA minimum wage and overtime requirements would increase from $455 a week ($23,660 a year) to $921 a week ($47,892 a year), based on 2013 data.  This means that anyone who makes less than $47,892 a year will be entitled to overtime pay for hours worked beyond 40.

The proposed regulations also set forth mechanisms for annually updating the minimum salary and if one of the annual update mechanisms is implemented, the DOL anticipates that the annual salary requirement in 2016 will be $970 a week, or $50,440 a year.

Duties Test – STAY TUNED

The DOL did not propose any changes to the duties requirements but did seek comments as to whether the duties tests should be updated.  Please stay tuned for Part II of this series for an outline of the current duties test. 

Highly Compensated Employees - CHANGED

The DOL’sproposed regulations increase the required salary for “highly compensated employees” to $122,148, indexed to the annualized value of the 90th percentile of weekly earnings of full-time salaried workers.

The DOL’s proposed rule would effectively extend overtime protections to nearly 5 million white collar workers within the first year of its implementation.  Because the overtime regulations have not been updated in so long, employers have been able to classify more and more employees as exempt and therefore avoid paying overtime.  The overtime exception was originally meant to apply to highly-compensated executive, administrative, and professional employees although it now applies to workers earning as little as $23,660 a year. 

The DOL is expected to release its final rule later in 2016. 

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.

Unpaid Internships: Legal Ramifications in New York

Unpaid Interns
Unpaid Interns

The legal ramifications of hiring unpaid interns in New York and elsewhere are making many businesses sit up and take notice.

Two former interns suing Condé Nast Publications have the corporate community in an uproar with rumors of doom and gloom and lawsuits to come as unpaid interns begin challenging labor laws and intern policies.

The practice of hiring underpaid or unpaid interns has become a standard in many industries, especially in media companies and other ‘glamor’ industries. However, with the news of Condé Nast’s lawsuit, many industries are second guessing their intern policy and seeking the advice of legal counsel to avoid unwanted legal ramifications.

Do Unpaid Internships Violate the Fair Labor Act?

The lawsuit filed on June 13th by interns at W Magazine and the New Yorker against parent company, Condé Nast Publications, state that Condé Nast violated federal labor laws. The lawsuit seeks a class action on behalf of all affected workers, citing the Fair Labor Standards Act, which requires all companies to pay employees an hourly minimum wage.

Intern Case Study: Condé Nast

Lauren Ballinger and Matthew Leib, plaintiffs in the case against Condé Nast Publications, believe Condé Nast failed to properly follow labor laws. Ballinger worked as an intern for several months for W Magazine in 2009, organizing accessories, performing vendor deliveries, and running personal errands among other job functions for a rate of $12 per day. Leib worked as an intern from 2009 to 2010 for the New Yorker, managing email correspondences, reviewing ‘Shouts and Murmurs’ submissions, proofreading outgoing mail, and opening incoming mail at a rate of $300-$500 per each three-month or four-month internship.

Who Benefits Most From an Internship?

In the case against Condé Nast Publications, interns are beginning to weigh who the real benefactor is in their internship relationship. Who benefits most? Is it the intern or the company? One key element to determining whether an internship is fair is by looking at the balance between educational value of the experience for the intern and whether the company is using the internship to ‘replace’ regular workers. Many interns have taken an internal analysis of their working relationship and have become conscious of the labor violations being perpetrated by so many. They have simply had enough. With legal ramifications on the horizon, companies are advised to seek counsel from an employment lawyer to ensure their internship policies are on the up-and-up.

Contact Us

Located in Manhattan, the New York City employment lawyers at Granovsky & Sundaresh have experience with these changing laws. We are committed to protecting the rights of New York employees. Contact us for a case evaluation.