What New Yorkers May Not Know About Their Wage and Hour Rights

Owen H. Laird, Esq.

For New Yorkers, both the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and New York Labor Law provide employees with rights to a minimum wage and, in many cases, overtime pay. However, many workers in New York still do not receive the pay to which they are entitled; for instance, employers may under-report employees’ hours, improperly withhold wages or tips, or simply pay a wage lower than the State minimum.

However, many employees choose to let these violations go because they are “minimal.” An employer might underpay an employee for by a half hour for each pay period, a loss that might only amount to a few dollars a month. The employee could hesitate to pursue those lost wages, afraid of upsetting things at work or doubtful that they can find a lawyer to pursue a smaller case. Despite these potential concerns, employees who believe they are being illegally underpaid should not be afraid.

First, employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees for complaining about wage violations, and if they do retaliate they can be exposed to significantly more liability than the initial underpayment the employee complained about.

Next, employees should not be concerned about finding a labor lawyer to take their case: both the FLSA and NYLL provide for an award of attorney’s fees in wage and hour cases.   This means that, even if the case is only worth a minimal amount, the attorney can still seek their fees from the employer who violated the law. Recent case law makes clear that, even if the plaintiff is only owed a few thousand dollars, the attorney can seek fees of many times that amount if the employer is liable.

At first glance it may seem unfair for an attorney to be paid tens of thousands of dollars for securing a few thousand dollars for a Plaintiff. However, the fact of the matter is that lawsuits are expensive endeavors, and if Plaintiff’s attorneys could not seek fees for their work, they would not be economically able to take on low dollar wage and hour cases, resulting in numerous employees being unable to assert their rights under the NYLL and FLSA.

If you think that your employer is violating wage and hour laws, contact The Harman Firm, LLP.