2014 was a hectic year for labor and employment practitioners in New York, yielding mixed results for employers and, in many instances, presenting more questions than answers. Among the highlights, an expanded paid sick leave law – amended on the eve of implementation by Mayor Bill de Blasio – took effect in New York City. And in Albany, state legislators, following the lead of their NYC counterparts, enacted workplace protections from discrimination and harassment for unpaid interns.

Now, however, with 2014 almost fully behind us, it is time for New York state and city employers to look toward 2015 and some of the more pressing employment law issues on next year’s horizon. That is why, starting today, and each day this week, we will “unwrap” one of the five most noteworthy issues poised to impact New York employers in the new year. Today’s topic is the minimum wage.

On December 31, the statewide minimum wage for non-exempt (i.e., hourly) employees will rise from $8.00 per hour to $8.75 (and then to $9.00 December 31, 2015). Just as significantly, the minimum weekly salary for certain exempt employees – executives and administrators – will increase December 31: from $600.00 to $656.25 (and then to $675.00 December 31, 2015).

Wages for tipped employees in the hospitality industry are also impacted. For food service workers, the tip credit – which permits employers to pay tipped employees less than the minimum wage so long as the employees earn enough gratuities to make up the difference – will increase from $3.00 to $3.75 per hour (and to $4.00 December 31, 2015). This means that the “tipped minimum wage” for such workers will remain at $5.00 per hour, provided that tips plus wages equal or exceed the applicable minimum wage (i.e., $8.75 per hour as of December 31, 2014). Critically, the minimum overtime rate for these workers will increase to $9.375 per hour. For non-food service workers (other than those at resort hotels), the tip credit will rise from $2.35 to $3.10 per hour, although the tipped minimum wage for such workers will stay steady at $5.65 per hour.

Certain meal and lodging credits, as well as uniform maintenance pay for employers that do not maintain required uniforms, are also scheduled to increase. The minimum wage spike also means a spike in the “spread of hours” pay rate owed to employees when they work (1) more than 10 hours in a given day, or (2) on a split shift, where the number of hours between the start and end of their workday exceeds 10.

Employers should monitor the New York Department of Labor’s website for an updated minimum wage poster that must be displayed in the workplace.

What Does This Mean for My Company?

New York employers can and indeed should expect a bevy of changes over the next year. From the minimum wage increase to expanded protections for pregnant employees to the use of unpaid labor, the New York employment law landscape remains in flux and is as dynamic as ever. Employers should therefore consult with experienced counsel immediately to discuss these issues and prepare a cogent plan of action to face them head-on.

Be sure that this is a New Year’s resolution that you actually keep!