The change in minimum wage laws in New York for fast food restaurant workers impacts synagogues, too.

Two and a half years ago, I wrote about the change in Federal Labor Laws and how synagogues would be affected. Your synagogue hired Jordan right out of college to be the Youth Director for a salary of $36,000. According to the new Federal regulations, every time Jordan accompanied teens to a weekend Shabbaton, she would be entitled to overtime at time and a half for every hour she worked beyond 40 hours each week. The same would be true for the office manager whose job responsibilities required her on occasion to work 55 hours a week. If her salary was less than $47,476, she, too would be entitled to overtime pay for each hour worked beyond 40.

In November of 2016, a lawsuit was filed and a restraining order was issued that kept these regulations from being implemented.

On the state and local levels, things are changing with a similar result.

New York State Labor Laws that increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour will impact synagogue employees – and most businesses and their workers – in a similar fashion as what was intended by the 2016 Federal Department of Labor regulations. As of December 31, 2018, if Jordan was the Youth Director at a New York City synagogue with 11 or more employees, and was earning less than $58,500, she would be entitled to overtime pay of time and half for every hour worked beyond 40 in any given week.

The pay threshold for synagogues with less than 11 full time employees on 12/31/2018 is a little less, $57,330. It will increase to $58,500 on 12/31/2019.

For synagogues in New York’s Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester Counties, there is a graduated grace period. But the threshold for all employees will be $58,500 on 12/31/2021. For synagogues in all other New York counties, the minimum salary threshold is $43,264 on 12/31/18, increasing to $48,750 on 12/31/20. Last December, several cities in Silicon Valley (Sunnyvale, Mountain View) increased the minimum wage to $15.  San Francisco has also increased its minimum wage laws to $15 as well. Other states may be following suit in the future.

There are not a lot of options here. The nature of the work of a Youth Director is such that there are a lot of late nights and weekends required. If the New York wage law impacts your synagogue, and the employee in question is earning below the threshold, you can require the Youth Director – or the Office Manager in the other example – to just work a 40-hour week. You will also need to ask such staff to keep really good time sheets. The weekend of the Shabbaton might be the only time that week that the Youth Director is working.

At the end of the day, this approach is probably “pennywise and pound foolish”.

You should of course consult with legal counsel familiar with New York State labor law.

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