Recent ruling expands employer liability under New York’s frequency-of-pay rules

A recent decision by a New York court paves the way for certain employees to privately sue their employers for “late” payments, even if they are paid in full.

New York’s Labor Law mandates that “manual workers” be paid “weekly and not later than seven calendar days after the end of the week in which wages are earned.” A “manual worker” includes people who are engaged in physical labor, whether strenuous or not, for more than 25% of their time working. In a recent decision, the First Judicial Department of New York’s Appellate Division held that the plaintiff, a construction worker, could bring a claim against his employer for failing to pay him on a weekly basis – even though the plaintiff was paid in full. Thus, employers who pay their manual workers late, but pay them in full, are still subject to liability under the State’s frequency-of-pay laws. Successful plaintiffs are entitled to liquidated damages.

Simply put, employers may now be sued if they fail to pay their manual workers weekly, even if those workers are paid in full. We expect that this ruling will cause an increase in the number of frequency-of-pay lawsuits brought against employers, particularly given the relatively easy showing required by plaintiffs to prevail (that they were paid, even if for the full amount, more than seven calendar days after the end of the week in which they worked for those wages). And, now that this has become a more attractive claim for plaintiffs, we expect there to be increased litigation around the definition of “manual worker” under the statute.

Occupations such as barbers, hairdressers, drivers, and other jobs that involve light to medium lifting and carrying of objects have all been considered “manual workers” by New York courts. Employers should review their employees’ job duties to see if those employees would be considered “manual workers” under the statute and then revisit their frequency-of-pay policies as needed.

If you would like to further discuss the recent ruling, please do not hesitate to contact your attorneys at Weinstein + Klein. We are here to help.

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