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Wage and hour law is established by the Fair Labor Standards Act, a federal law mandating a minimum wage that must be paid and establishing the maximum hours that can be worked before an employer is required to pay overtime. The federal minimum wage is currently $7.25 an hour. This minimum wage covers almost all employees, with significant exceptions. The general rule on overtime is that employees who work more than 40 hours in a workweek must be paid at least one and one half times their regular rate of pay (time and a half).
The Fair Labor Standards Act is enforced at the federal level by the United States Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division. The New York State Department of Labor, Division of Labor Standards enforces labor laws at the state level, including wage and hour laws. New York’s minimum wage and maximum hour requirements mirror the federal law in many respects, such as the basic 40-hour per week rule and the $7.25 an hour minimum wage. However, state law also goes beyond federal law in important ways.
New York law goes beyond the federal requirements in requiring that most employees are entitled to an uninterrupted meal period of at least 30 minutes when they work a six hour shift covering the noonday meal period. When this rule is violated, employees may recover money damages for the missed meal periods. Unpaid overtime claims may also be involved when workers required to work during their scheduled meal period go over the 40-hour limit.
There are many different ways in which New York State and federal wage and hour laws can be violated. There are also many exceptions and exemptions in the law which can make it difficult to determine and prove wage and hour violations. For instance, New York law allows employers to offer only a 20 minute meal period in certain cases, and some employees may be required to eat while on duty.
Employees who are not paid the minimum wage or who are not paid overtime may sue to recover back wages plus interest and penalties up to 200% of their unpaid wages. If you are being forced to work off the clock, misclassified as an exempt employee, or otherwise being denied overtime, you should contact a New York labor and employment law attorney to reclaim the wages that are due to you.