New Rights For New York Hotel and Restaurant Employees

Starting on January 1, 2011, New York employees in the Hotel and Restaurant Industries have new rights and legal protections under New York’s Hospitality Wage Order. While there are numerous changes to the law, the following describes some of the more noteworthy changes.

Changes to Minimum Wage
The new law makes it clear that tipped employees must receive at least $7.25 per hour between salary and tips, and reduces the maximum tip credit for food service workers from $2.60 per hour to $2.25 per hour. It also sets new minimum base wages (before tips) for service employees and chambermaids in resort hotels.

Employees Must Be Paid By the Hour
Under the Wage Order, employers in the Hotel and Restaurant Industries now are required to pay non-exempt employees by the hour, rather than based on salaries, weekly rates, day rates, or piece rates. This requirement does not apply to commissioned salespeople.

Stricter Regulations of Tips
Employers and employees in the Hotel and Restaurant Industries are allowed to share and pool tips, meaning combine all of the tips received before redistributing them to employees. However, employers must give employees advance written notice of their tip sharing and tip pooling policies. Employers who use tip pooling or sharing also must keep records of all of the tips they receive, and all of the tips they distribute to their employees. In addition, employers also must treat any special fee for a banquet, special function or package deal as a tip unless they clearly inform customers that the fee is not a gratuity and will not be distributed to employees.

New Requirements For Employee Meal Breaks
When an employee in the Hotel and Restaurant Industries has a work shift that is long enough that he or she is legally entitled to a meal break, the employer must either allow employees to bring their own food, or offer employees a meal at a cost of no more than $2.50, which is the legally required meal credit. Under a separate law, New York State Labor Law Section 162, most employees in New York who work more than a six hour shift that starts before 11 am and ends after 2 pm are entitled to take at least a half hour lunch period between 11 am and 2 pm.

Effective Date
Although the law went into effect on January 1, 2011, employers have until February 28 to make changes to their payroll and bookkeeping systems. However, by the first regular payday after March 1, 2011 employers must pay employees based on the new rules retroactively to January 1, 2011.

Contact our employment law firm for more information about your wage and hour rights in New York and New Jersey.

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