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BusinessColumnistsCarrie Mason-Draffen

Pizza delivery workers and seasonal camp counselors on short end of wage law

A pizza delivery persons pay is a combination

A pizza delivery persons pay is a combination of tips and salary, but in New York it must equal the prevailing minimum wage. Photo Credit: iStock

DEAR CARRIE: My son works as a deliveryman for a pizza restaurant. He delivers food to homes and businesses, and during slack times he cleans tables and bathrooms. He started at the minimum wage and gets to keep tips. Even though the minimum wage increased at the end of last year, he was told his salary would remain the same because he receives tips. Is that correct since the minimum wage increased?

-- Bigger Slice?

DEAR BIGGER: Your son's employer told him just part of the story. The bottom line is that he has to be paid the minimum wage, which rose to $8.75 an hour in New York on Dec. 31. The wage and tip combination used to get him there has changed, in part, and can be confusing.

The wage portion, which hasn't changed, requires the pizzeria to pay your son at least $5.65 an hour toward his weekly compensation since he is a service employee in New York State. Perhaps your son's supervisor was referring to that when he or she said his wages wouldn't change.

But the tip portion of the combination has changed. The maximum tip credit that the employer can apply to bring your son's weekly earnings up to minimum wage is $3.10 an hour, which rose at the end of last year from $2.35 an hour. The $3.10 plus the $5.65 equal $8.75 an hour. When the minimum wage rises to $9 an hour at the end of this year, the maximum tip credit will also increase -- to $3.35 an hour.

The tip credit, a bookkeeping measure, offsets, or lessens, what the employer has to pay to ensure your son earns the minimum wage.

So when your son's tips for the week equal the equivalent of $3.10 or more an hour, the pizzeria can legally pay him just the $5.65 an hour mentioned above. On the other hand, during a slow week if his tips work out to less than $3.10 an hour, his employer has to pay him more than the $5.65 an hour to bring him up to the minimum wage.

It's important to note that your son must be able to keep all the tips he receives, unless he is part of a legitimate tip pool that includes co-workers. But the tips can be counted as credit toward his weekly compensation.

DEAR CARRIE: My 16-year-old daughter was just hired as a camp counselor for the upcoming summer. I can't believe how little she will earn. She will work Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. for eight weeks and earn a total of $1,000. That equals $3.57 an hour. Why is a day camp allowed to pay employees so far below the minimum wage?

-- S'more Wages?

DEAR S'MORE: From time to time, I receive similar questions from the parents of newly minted camp counselors.

And the U.S. Labor Department's Long Island office, which is in Westbury, typically receives many calls this time of year from parents of camp counselors who can't believe their children will earn so far below the state minimum wage.

The pay is legal if the business is seasonal and meets one of two tests: One, the business doesn't operate more than seven months in a calendar year. Or, two, if it is open longer, the monthly average receipts for the six slower months cannot be more than 33? percent of the monthly average for the six busier months when receipts are the highest. The months don't have to be consecutive.

Businesses covered by these rules include organized camps and amusement parks. For more information call the U.S. Labor Department at 516-338-1890.

Camp counselors typically receive tips. But seasonal camps don't have to ensure that workers' tips plus wages equal at least the minimum wage every week. That's the opposite of the scenario above involving the pizza delivery guy.


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