Fascinating Implications of New York’s $15 an Hour Minimum Wage Push for Fast Food Restaurant Workers

In our last blog post, we reported on New York State’s Fast Food Wage Board’s July decision to incrementally elevate the minimum wage for fast food workers in New York City to $15 an hour.

That change will nearly double the current minimum wage of $8.75 and will likely shake up New York’s restaurant industry. But how, exactly, will this paradigm shift affect things? Will the changes all be good (from the perspective of workers)? Or will there be subtle, potential dangers?

Our New York employment law firm has agitated for better treatment and fairer pay for restaurant workers for years. Our attorney, Maimon Kirschenbaum, has even won the distinction of being known in the press as the “Scourge of Restaurateurs.”

What drives us – what motivates us to work incredibly hard, take on challenging cases and confront powerful businesses and celebrities – is our deeply felt conviction that workers need and deserve fair wages.

Although it’s obviously way too early to tell, here are some potential implications of this minimum wage hike.

Potential Positives

More money in the pockets of workers who need and deserve it. Restaurant workers will need to make fewer heartbreaking choices, such as “should I pay my rent this month or my health insurance?”

A rising tide could lift all ships. The enforced minimum wage might inspire other businesses – including non-fast food restaurants – to pay fairer wages.

Good riddance to bad rubbish. The move could also drive out restaurants (and other businesses) that would never voluntarily treat workers fairly, thus creating a healthier and more ethical ecosystem of companies in NYC.

Potential Undesired Ramifications

A vicious cycle of business attrition? Some critics fear that higher minimum wages will drive fast food businesses out of the city, thus reducing employment options. This dire scenario is unlikely, but exploring the complex economic counterarguments would warrant its own blog post.

Cover for bad behavior? Some restaurant owners and managers might strive to use these new rules to subtly perpetrate other wage and hour violations. For instance – and this is a cartoonish example to illustrate the point – but a restaurant owner might say something to the effect of “now that your minimum wage has gone up, you will no longer be keeping all of your tips.” In other words, an owner might blatantly violate the Fair Labor Standards Act or New York Labor Laws in order to “recoup” some money “lost” as a result of the wage increases.

No matter what happens, the progressive New York employment lawyers at Joseph & Kirschenbaum will be here to fight for fair pay and fair rights for workers. If you or someone you love would like to speak with us about your employment situation, please email info@jhllp.com or call (212) 688-5640.