The nuts and bolts of the minimum wage increase for employers

11 or more employees – now $11 an hour. 10 or less, $10.50 an hour

By Stephen D. Hans

Businesses throughout New York State are now being impacted by minimum wage increases that went into effect on December 31.

These increases are somewhat historic, as for the first time ever there will be different minimum wage rates for the various geographic regions of the state, and in New York City there are different rates for large and small businesses.

Because of this, the formerly simple question of “what is the minimum wage” has become a bit more complicated.

Beginning on December 31, 2016 the minimum wage for employees working in any of the five boroughs of New York City (including, of course , Queens) for a business with 11 or more employees is now $11 per hour. Employees working for a small business with 10 or fewer employees have a lower minimum wage rate of $10.50 per hour.

Employees working for businesses on Long Island (Nassau and Suffolk Counties) or in Westchester County must be paid a minimum wage rate of $10 per hour, while the applicable minimum wage rate for the remainder of upstate New York is now $9.70 per hour.

All regions of the state will see further scheduled annual increases in the minimum wage over the coming years, with rates for New York City businesses eventually rising to $15 per hour by the start of 2019 for large employers and 2020 for small employers.

Rates for Long Island and Westchester rise at a slower pace, reaching $15 per hour by the start of 2022.

Upstate counties will see the minimum wage rate rise the slowest, increasing incrementally until reaching $12.50 per hour at the start of 2021, with any further increases thereafter to be set by the Commissioner of Labor based upon economic indices.

There are also new salary levels for certain exempt “white collar” employees, including those classified as overtime exempt under the administrative and executive exemptions.

Although the anticipated federal salary level increase to $913 per week ($47,476 annually) was stayed by a federal court judge and did not go into effect as previously anticipated on December 1, New York employers still saw an increase in the required minimum salary levels for such exempt employees.

As of December 31, these levels are now set at $825 per week for large city-based employers (11 or more employees), $787.50 per week for small employers (10 or fewer employees), $750 per week for Long Island and Westchester employers, and $727.50 per week for upstate employers.

Just as with the minimum wage rate, these minimum salary levels will also be rising annually over the next several years, eventually reaching $1,125 per week in most regions.

Along with the minimum wage increases, there are also new rates for allowances, including tip, meal and lodging credits, and new rates for uniform maintenance pay.

As with the minimum wage, these rates vary by industry, as well as geographic location and employer size, and employers should consult the relevant wage order applicable to their particular industry.

These wage orders, along with other important information including required workplace postings and forms, can be accessed at

Stephen D. Hans, a Long Island City-based labor attorney, is chairperson of the Queens County Bar Association Labor Relations Committee.


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