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Suffolk County New York Living Wage Law Boosts Minimum Wages for Many

  • July 16, 2002

A "living wage" law passed last year by the Suffolk County Legislature went into effect on July 1, 2002. The legislation is intended to benefit lower paid employees in the County, especially day care and home health care workers. The hourly wages provided under the County law greatly exceed the federal minimum wage, which is $5.15 per hour.

The law requires private employers receiving County funding of $50,000 or more or contracts of $10,000 or more to (1) pay covered employees at least $9 an hour, with health benefits of at least $1.25 (or $10.25 an hour without health benefits) and (2) provide covered employees with at least twelve (12) compensated days off each year. In addition, the law requires covered employers to maintain and submit to the County Department of Labor annually certain payroll and personnel records. Parties which subcontract or enter into lease agreements with covered employers also may be required to comply with the law.

Not-for-profit organizations may apply annually for an exemption to the living wage law. To qualify for the exemption, the highest paid employee of the organization must earn a salary which is less than six (6) times the lowest wage paid by the organization, or the organization must show that compliance with the law will directly increase its expected total annual budget by 10%. The County has created a $3.5 million fund to assist non-profit organizations to comply with the law but has yet to establish a distribution system.

Employers found to be in violation of the law are subject to disqualification and financial penalties, including not only wage restitution for affected employees but substantial fines for each week for each employee found not to have been paid in accordance with the living wage law.

Jackson Lewis has prepared a more detailed summary of the Suffolk County "living wage" law. Contact us if you would like to receive a copy.

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