New York state law requires workers who perform significant amounts of manual work to be paid every week. Many large New York employers, using biweekly or semi-monthly payroll schemes, have been sued for untimely payments to their employees, in what are called late payment lawsuits. The law is in place to insure that some of New York’s most vulnerable workers get paid in a timely manner so they can provide for themselves and their families.
New York Law Versus the Employers
Section 191 of the New York Labor Law spells out the required frequency of payments for several classes of workers. Here are the basics:
- Manual Workers: Wages must be paid weekly and not later than seven calendar days after the end of the week in which the wages are earned
- Railroad Workers: Wages must be paid on or before Thursday of each week and the pay must include wages earned during the seven-day period ending on the Tuesday of the preceding week
- Commission Salespersons: Wages must be paid in accordance with the agreed terms set forth in the written commission agreement (however, pay must not be less frequently than once in each month and not later than the last day of the month following the month in which the wages are earned)
- Executives, Administrators, and Professionals: Exempt under Section 191
- Clerical or Other Workers: Wages must be paid in accordance with the agreed terms of employment but not less frequently than semi-monthly
At issue in these untimely pay class actions against many large employers is their refusal to pay “manual” employees weekly. The biweekly and semi-monthly pay schedules they customarily use undermine the objective and policy behind New York’s pay law, which is to ensure that workers who live paycheck to paycheck receive payment as often as possible. Getting paid faster helps workers meet their expenses and avoid going unnecessarily into debt.
Walmart, Costco, Walgreens, and Bed Bath & Beyond are among the many employers facing class-action lawsuits that could seek hundreds of millions of dollars in damages, depending on how much of their workforce is covered under the New York law.
How a State Court Decision Changed the Game for New York Workers
New York’s pay frequency requirement isn’t new. Before 2019, it was enforced by the New York Department of Labor, with maximum fines of $3,000 for violations. Then came Vega v. CM & Associates Construction Management. The Supreme Court of New York decision permitted manual workers to seek liquidated damages equal to the money they received later than on a weekly basis.
If an employee was paid biweekly, then under Vega the worker could demand half a year’s wages in damages. Considering that New York has a six-year statute of limitations for wage claims, this decision could translate to significant sums of money owed to workers.
It’s worth noting that large retailers can ask the state for permission to pay workers on a semi-monthly basis, which Walmart claims it did in 1993. Businesses with 1,000 workers or more can seek this exemption, although such does not appear to apply retroactively.
Your Pay Frequency Matters
It’s not enough for your employer to pay you accurately. It must also pay you timely, in accordance with the law. If you aren’t being paid often enough you could find yourself struggling to make ends meet. Do you have questions about the frequency of your pay? The Lore Law Firm can review your case if you complete our free and confidential client intake form. Contact us today for help!