New York Labor Laws: A Complete Guide to Wages, Breaks, Overtime, and More (2024)

In this article, we’ll dive deep into New York’s labor laws, with details on all the important aspects of the state’s regulations on your employees.

New York’s lucrative business landscape has attracted investors from different industries. As of 2023, the state housed over 50 Fortune 500 companies, making it a favorite state for investors.

However, despite the seemingly unending opportunities, running a business in New York is never easy. You could face hefty fines or face jail time for failing to comply with not-so-obvious labor laws.

To help you stay compliant with the state’s labor laws, we’ll take a deep dive into New York’s labor laws and highlight important aspects of labor legislation in the state.

Let’s jump straight into it.

Meals and Breaks in New York

Employees working more than six hours are entitled to at least one 60-minute break. Employers don’t have to compensate workers for the time they take for their breaks.

As for meals, factory workers are allowed a 60-minute lunch break at noon. On the other hand, those in the mercantile and other industries are allowed a 30-minute break at noon. It’s worth noting that noon begins at 11 a.m. and extends to 2 p.m.

Employees who begin work before 11 o’clock and leave past 7 in the evening are allowed an extra twenty-five-minute meal break between 5 and 7 p.m. Employees working shifts of more than six hours between 1 in the afternoon and 6 in the morning shall be allowed a 60-minute meal break for factory workers and 45 minutes for workers in the mercantile and other industries.

Employers can apply for meal breaks of less than 30 minutes by submitting a written request to the NYSDOL (New York State Department of Labor). However, they must prove that the shorter meal breaks don’t confer any hardships to the employees. Here’s the updated list for employers with shorter meal period permits.

Leave and Paid Time Off (PTO) in New York

No law exists in New York that makes it mandatory for employers to offer their employees paid time off. However, the state does allow employers to give their workers more paid time off than most other states. If employers choose to do so, it must form part of their written employment policy or contractual agreement with employees.

The state doesn’t make it mandatory to compensate employees for time out of work except for sick leave. Instead, the state’s Department of Labor considers the following as fringe benefits in place of paid time off:

Some employers may allow their employees to accrue vacation time after working for a period. Instead of getting a lump sum of vacation days at the end or the beginning of the year, employees can accumulate vacation days based on their length of service.

Other employers allow their employees to roll over their vacation days. This means employees can choose to work during their vacation days, and their PTO vacation days will be rolled over to the next year and so on. In rare cases, employers adopt a use-it-or-lose-it approach, where vacation days are neither accrued nor rolled over.

Are There Any Employer Obligations Regarding Paid or Unpaid Leave?

The New York State Department of Labor outlines the responsibilities of employers when providing paid and unpaid leave. For starters, employers are required to give paid family leave to eligible employers under the New York State Paid Family Leave program.

Moreover, employers must also obtain paid family leave insurance for their employees. However, this policy doesn’t replace your employees’ disability insurance but is a rider policy. Once employers purchase the policy, the provider will give a notice of compliance to show employees.

It’s also the employers’ responsibility to identify and inform all eligible workers of the paid family leave either in writing or electronically. Employees can waive their paid family leave if they don’t meet the time worked threshold. To qualify, employees must have worked an average of at least 20 hours during the 26 weeks, leading to paid family leave.

Overtime Regulations in New York

New York labor laws require employers to pay overtime, regardless of their business niche and size. Employers are subject to the FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act) and NYS labor laws, which make overtime mandatory. According to the FLSA, your business must pay overtime if:

In New York, overtime is paid every hour after the 40th hour in a work week. Any additional hour after the 40-hour mark is considered overtime.

​​How Is the Overtime Rate Calculated

Overtime in New York is calculated at one and a half times the regular pay rate, excluding commissions, bonuses, and other payments. Below is a quick rundown of how to calculate overtime in New York.

Let’s say a construction worker works 50 hours a week with an hourly rate of $15. 

40 hours = Regular work hours

10 hours = Overtime hours

Overtime is 1.5 times regular rate = $15 x 1.5 = $22.50

40 regular work hours x $15 (Regular rate) = $600

10 overtime hours x $22.50 = $225

Total pay = Regular Pay ($600) + Overtime Pay ($225) = $825

New York labor laws require employers to pay overtime, regardless of their business niche and size.

Are There Any Exceptions to Overtime Pay?

Overtime pay in New York is a legal right for everyone who falls under the umbrella of “employee.” However, certain employees are exempt from overtime pay, regardless of how many hours they work. These employees include:

Wages and Benefits in New York

New York is an expansive state with cities acting independently. As such, the minimum wage amount in one city may not be the same in another. What’s more, different industries have different minimum wages. The law requires employers in various cities and industries to adhere to the stipulated minimum wage.

The table below provides a summary.


Minimum Wage


Farm Laborers

Hospitality and Fast Food

New York City





Long Island





Westech ester





Rest of New York





Mandatory Employee Benefits in New York

New York boasts a rich history of enacting worker-friendly legislation. It has also been at the forefront of bolstering labor and employment regulations in the country. The Empire State provides additional rights and benefits to workers under its Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights and Human Rights Law.

Workers in New York legally have the right to:

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Prevailing Wages in New York

Prevailing wage is an integral part of the construction industry in New York. The prevailing wage ensures all contractors and subcontractors working on public projects compensate their workers fairly.

Articles 8 and 9 of the NYS labor laws dictate the terms of prevailing wages in New York. The NYSDOL issues prevailing wage schedules for general and residential construction projects. These wages vary from one county to the next but fall within a specific range. The schedules contain the pay rates for each work classification.

The key regulations for prevailing wages in New York are as follows:

Contractors and subcontractors can learn about New York’s prevailing wages from plenty of resources. These include:

Remember that you can always consult with legal experts in case of any confusion. HR specialists can also offer guidance on the same.

Hiring Practices in New York

The hiring practices for New York are anchored in the New York State Human Rights Law. The law prohibits discrimination and ensures a level playing field for job seekers. Besides this law, the state leaves employers to organize their hiring and recruitment processes as they please. While doing so, keep the following aspects of hiring in mind:

Job Advertisement

Employers should be extra careful with the wording and imagery they use for their advertisements. The state harshly condemns anything that may come off as discriminatory in terms of race, color, nationality, and gender.

Discrimination aside, advertisements should also indicate the position, requirements, application guidelines, and deadlines. The salary transparency law introduced in September 2023 also requires employers with more than four employees to disclose compensation in job advertisements.

Criminal History

New York adopts a “Ban the Box” approach, similar to other states. The state’s “Fair Chance Act” prohibits employers from inquiring about an applicant’s criminal history in the first job application. They can only do so after the applicants receive their initial conditional job offer.

Article 23-A of the correction law lays down conditions for hiring ex-convicts. It states that employers cannot discriminate against applicants because of their criminal history. Instead, they should consider factors like the gravity of the offense and the relevance of the offense to the job’s duties. You can learn more about article 23-A here.

Negligent Hiring

Employers are required to hire sound and responsible employees. This means that the state will hold employers liable for any damage caused by their employees to a third party. Damage, in this regard, could mean physical harm or property damage.

Medical Examinations

Like other states, employers in New York can ask for a medical examination only after they extend their job offers and the offers are accepted. They can also make disability-related inquiries only during the post-offer stage but before work begins.

Drug Testing

Drug testing is a touchy subject in the hiring process in New York and other states. In New York, the law doesn’t require employers to ensure a drug-free workplace, save for federal contractors and those in the safety and security industry.

That said, employers are free to conduct pre-employment drug tests and use the test results as a condition of employment. However, they must furnish job applicants with a copy of their drug testing policy, which they must consent to. Employers must also maintain the privacy and confidentiality of the test results and other related medical information.

It’s worth noting that the state prohibits employers from testing applicants for marijuana or THC. The only exceptions are when the DOT (Department of Transportation) requires marijuana testing or when marijuana tests are mandatory in the collective bargaining agreement.

Health and Safety Standards in New York

Both the federal and state government oversees health and safety standards and regulations in New York. The Occupational Standards and Health Acts presides over workplace safety at a federal level. However, the state has its own state-run OSHA program called the New York State Plan under the New York Public Employee Safety and Health (PESH) Bureau.

The key tenets of the New York State Plan include the following:

Employee Termination and Resignation in New York

New York is an at-will state, meaning employees are free to quit their jobs when they wish. Similarly, employers can fire employees whenever they want, provided they have legal grounds. That said, specific state regulations dictate the termination and resignation process.

Whether employers should give a notice of termination and employees will give a notice of resignation depends on contractual and employment agreements. No law requires either party to give prior notice before their respective actions. However, employers must furnish employees with their termination letter within five days after the termination date.

In New York, employers in the private sector aren’t required to give a valid reason for termination. Only government workers and those under a collective bargaining agreement have legal protection for unfair termination. That said, the state still considers specific reasons for termination unlawful. They include:

According to New York Labor Laws § 191, employers must pay all pending paychecks of employees who resigned or were dismissed on the next payday. For salespersons, all commissions from sales must be paid within five days of the date of contract termination.

New York has no law compelling employees to pay their employees severance packages unless it is part of their employment contract. If so, employers must follow the contract terms to the letter and pay up.

Unemployment Benefits in New York

New York will offer unemployment benefits only to eligible employees. To be eligible for these benefits, one must:

Eligible employees can get up to 26 weeks of unemployment benefits. The benefits usually range from $100 to $5,000, depending on the employee’s past salary. This income is taxable under your state and federal tax returns.

The easiest way to apply for unemployment benefits is through the NYSDOL website. You can also apply over the phone by calling 888-209-8124 or 888-581-5812 for those with hearing difficulties.

What About Employers?

Yes, employers have a small yet crucial role in the unemployment benefits process. Some employer responsibilities in the process include:

Penalties for Non-Compliance in New York

The New York State Department of Labor makes no exceptions when it comes to non-compliance with labor laws. In fact, the state is one of the strictest in the country in terms of adherence to labor laws.

Willful violation of the FLSA’s minimum wage and overtime requirements could result in a maximum fine of $2,347. Failing to comply with child labor requirements, on the other hand, could result in a fine of $15,138 for every child worker. Violations leading to a child’s death raise the fine to $68,801.

Violating OSHA safety standards could result in a fine of up to $15,625. Repeated violations, on the other hand, could result in a maximum penalty of $156,239. The most severe penalty, however, is breaching the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) and intentional discrimination. This could result in a recovery amount of between $50,000 to $300,000, depending on the size of the employer.

Other Essential Information About Labor Laws in New York

We’ve captured all you need to know about the basics of labor laws in New York. However, it wouldn’t hurt to learn just a little bit more. Here are a few tidbits of information about New York labor laws that might be useful.

The Bottom Line on New York Labor Laws

Despite the confusing clauses and the unrelenting penalties, labor laws in New York protect the employer and employee. It’s the responsibility of both parties to adhere to these laws to bolster the state’s economy and encourage a thriving labor market.

Failing to comply with these laws not only leads to hefty penalties but also compromises the health and safety of your workers. Plus, it does a great disservice to an otherwise hardworking and law-abiding state that sets an excellent example for the rest of the country.

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Workyard’s intuitive scheduling dashboard makes it easy to direct your workforce to the jobs you need done, based on their skill sets, their locations, their availability, and (of course) their weekly time worked – so you can avoid unnecessary overtime payments and reduce reimbursable travel expenses.

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