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Right to Work
Is New York a Right to Work State? 6 Questions, Answered
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AnnaMarie Houlis
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Here's everything you need to know about the right-to-work law, at-will employment and these mean in New York.

What is right to work?

The right-to-work law, which is also known as the Workplace Freedom or Workplace Choice law, is a law that grants workers the right to choose whether or not they'd like to join a union in their workplace. Likewise, it also makes it optional for workers already in unionized workplaces to pay union dues and other membership fees that are required for union representation (whether they're involved in the union or not).

What is at-will employment?

Every state with the exception of Montana is an at-will employment state. Under the at-will employment policy, either the employer or the employee can terminate employment at any time for any reason (unless it's illegal and proven wrongful termination, which is hard to do) without consequence — unless the employee has a contract or a union agreement that states otherwise.

Is New York a right to work state?

New York is not currently a right-to-work state. This means that employees are required to pay union dues as a condition for employment, whether or not they choose to participate in those unions.

Can you be fired for any reason in New York?

New York is an at-will state, which means that you can be fired for any just reason at any time. Again, proving wrongful termination isn't always an easy feat, but your employer can only fire you for legal reasons.

What are important New York labor laws?

Here are three important labor laws in New York of which you should be aware.

1. Minimum Wage

"From 12/31/2018 to 12/30/2019, the basic minimum wage is $11.10 per hour in most of New York State," according to the New York State Department of Labor. "There are different minimum wage rates for: the fast food industry; Long Island; Westchester County and large and small employers in New York City."

The New York State minimum wage actually increased on December 31, 2018. So, in New York City, the minimum wage is currently $13.50 per hour for businesses with 10 or fewer employees, and it's $15.00 per hour for businesses with 11 or more employees, according to the New York State Department of Labor. Meanwhile, in Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester counties, it is $12.00 per hour and, in the remainder of the state, it is $11.10 per hour.

There are different hourly rates for workers in the fast-food industry and those who receive tips. For more on these rates, you can check out the New York State Department of Labor's minimum wage information page here.

2. Overtime

New York labor laws "require an employer to pay overtime to employees, unless otherwise exempt, at the rate of 1½ times the employee’s regular rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of 40 hours in a workweek," according to the Employment Law Handbook.

3. Meal Periods

"New York State has rules that govern the time allowed for workers to eat during their shift on the job," according to the New York State Department of Labor.

Specifically, the law reads:

  • "Every person employed in or in connection with a factory shall be allowed at least 60 minutes for the noonday meal."
  • "Every person employed in or in connection with a mercantile or other establishment or occupation coming under the provisions of this chapter shall be allowed at least 30 minutes for the noonday meal, except as in this chapter otherwise provided. The noonday meal period is recognized as extending from eleven o’clock in the morning to two o’clock in the afternoon. An employee who works a shift of more than six hours, which extends over the noonday meal period, is entitled to at least 30 minutes off within that period for the meal period."
  • "Every person employed for a period or shift starting before eleven o’clock in the morning and continuing later than seven o’clock in the evening shall be allowed an additional meal period of at least 20 minutes between five and seven o’clock in the evening."
  • "Every person employed for a period or shift of more than six hours starting between the hours of one o’clock in the afternoon and six o’clock in the morning, shall be allowed at least 60 minutes for a meal period when employed in or in connection with a factory, and 45 minutes for a meal period when employed in or in connection with a mercantile or other establishment or occupation coming under the provision of this chapter, at a time midway between the beginning and end of such employment."
  • "The commissioner may permit a shorter time to be fixed for meal periods than hereinbefore provided. The permit, therefore, shall be in writing and shall be kept conspicuously posted in the main entrance of the establishment. Such permit may be revoked at any time."

What are some resources for New York employees?

To learn more about employment laws in New York, check out these resources:

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AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.

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