Carrie Mason-Draffen Newsday columnist Carrie Mason Draffen

Mason-Draffen, a business reporter, writes a column about workplace issues.

DEAR CARRIE: I am retired, and I work 40 hours a month as a church janitor. The church pays me $275 for those hours. That doesn't work out to minimum wage. Is this legal? The church also doesn't give me a pay stub. Is this also legal? -- Upright Pay?

DEAR UPRIGHT: Let's deal with the minimum wage issue first. Believe it or not, the church doesn't have to pay you minimum wage, which rose to $8 an hour in New York State on Dec. 31. You are considered a sexton, and that category of workers is exempt from minimum wage.

Here is how the state statutes define sexton:

"The term sexton means an individual who works as a caretaker at a place where religious services are held, or whose duties at such place are solely of a religious nature, or whose duties are partly religious and partly as a caretaker."

The church is required, however, to give you a wage statement each payday.

That statement must show such things as your hours worked, pay rate, gross wages, deductions and net wages.

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For more information, call the state Labor Department at 516-794- 8195.

DEAR CARRIE: I started taking my Social Security benefits at age 62. Meanwhile, my husband turned 65 and is applying for his benefits. A friend told me I could also collect a part of my husband's benefits. Is this true? If I can, how do I go about it? -- Beneficially Speaking

DEAR BENEFICIALLY: You wouldn't get a wholly separate benefit, but it is possible to receive a higher monthly amount if your current payment is less than half of your husband's benefit.

I'll use an example from a Social Security Administration spokeswoman to illustrate how that works. Let's say you are collecting $700 a month. And let's say your husband's monthly benefit is $1,800. Half of his is $900, which exceeds your $700. So your benefit could rise by $200 a month.

"We would look to see if any additional payment could be made on the spouse's benefit," the spokeswoman said.

But your spousal benefit won't rise by the full $200 if you start receiving it before you reach your full retirement age. You no doubt are familiar with that concept because you began collecting your own benefits at age 62. Full retirement age ranges from 65 to 67, depending on when a benefit recipient was born.

It's important to note that your spousal benefit wouldn't be affected if your husband starts receiving his benefits before his full retirement age. He would receive less than the $1,800 in that case. But that wouldn't affect your spousal benefit.

"The calculation of her benefit doesn't depend on his age when he retires," the spokeswoman said. "It depends on her age."

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A couple of other points are worth noting. If your benefit payment is higher than half of your husband's, your payment wouldn't increase.

So if you are collecting $1,500 a month on your own and your spousal benefit works out to $900, your benefit wouldn't increase.

And you aren't eligible for the spousal benefits until your husband receives or is eligible to receive his Social Security benefits, the spokeswoman said.

For more information, call Social Security at 800-772-1213. For more on Social Security spousal benefits go to For more on church workers who are exempt from minimum wage go to