HR Management & Compliance

End of 2015 marks beginning of New York’s fast-food wage increases

by Angelo D. Catalano

The first of a series of minimum wage increases for fast-food workers in New York is set to begin on December 31.  Counter Girl Serving

The increases survived a challenge from the National Restaurant Association when the New York Industrial Board of Appeals decided on December 9 that the state’s action to raise wages for fast-food employees was lawful. The restaurant organization, however, isn’t giving up and has vowed to take the issue to court, according to news reports.

Last spring, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called for Mario J. Musolino, the acting labor commissioner, to impanel a wage board under the state’s labor law to investigate and make recommendations on the wages paid in New York’s fast-food industry. In September, Musolino approved the board’s recommendations for a phased-in increase in the minimum wage for fast-food employees to $15 per hour.

The current minimum wage in New York for most workers, including fast-food workers, is $8.75 per hour. The new $15 minimum wage for fast-food workers will be phased in on two different schedules, which are dependent on whether the fast-food establishment is located within or outside New York City. The phase-in schedule is:

  • Within New York City: $10.50 on December 31, 2015; $12 on December 31, 2016; $13.50 on December 31, 2017; $15 on December 31, 2018.
  • Outside New York City: $9.75 on December 31, 2015; $10.75 on December 31, 2016; $11.75 on December 31, 2017; $12.75 on December 31, 2018; $13.75 on December 31, 2019; $14.50 on December 31, 2020; and $15 on July 1, 2021.

The law defines a fast-food establishment as one:

  1. That has as its primary purpose serving food or drink items;
  2. Where patrons order or select the food or drink items and pay before eating and where the food and drinks may be consumed on the premises, taken out, or delivered to customers’ locations;
  3. That offers limited service;
  4. That is part of a chain; and
  5. That is one of 30 or more establishments nationally.

Fast-food establishments include establishments located within non-fast-food establishments, such as food courts in shopping malls or fast-food vendors in auto service stations.

A “fast-food employee” is defined as any person employed or permitted to work at a fast-food establishment by any employer whose job duties include customer service, cooking, food or drink preparation, delivery, security, stocking supplies or equipment, cleaning, or routine maintenance.

For more information on the new fast-food minimum wage in New York, see the October issue of New York Employment Law Letter.

Angelo D. Catalano is an attorney with Coughlin & Gerhart, LLP in Binghamton, New York. He can be reached at