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New York fighting wage theft

On Behalf of | Feb 23, 2024 | Employment Law |

It can be difficult to make ends meet in New York. This can be made even harder if workers are not paid the wages they are owed. Wage theft comes in many forms. It could involve an employer failing to pay the minimum wage, refusing to pay overtime or shortchanging workers in other ways.

New York is cracking down on these types of violations. Still, recent reports suggest that workers in the state could be denied as much as $1 billion or more due to wage theft. People who have been negatively impacted by these illegal acts need to be fully aware of their right to receive the wages they are owed.

New York assemblywoman discusses high rate of wage theft

According to Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, employers are responsible for withholding as much as $1 billion. Often, workers are either unsure or fearful of speaking up about getting what they are entitled to. It is possible that the amount is being underestimated.

If a worker is deprived of what they are owed under the law, it constitutes wage theft. It goes beyond the previously mentioned minimum wage and overtime and extends to workers not getting designated breaks, not receiving tips or being misclassified as a contractor instead of an employee.

There are specific types of jobs where workers are particularly vulnerable to wage theft. Household employees, landscapers, those in the service industry, hairdressers, parking attendants and laborers.

To address this, New York enhanced a law in 2023 that had been passed in 2017. Those who break the law will face harsher sanctions. There are plans in place to make the consequences for violators even worse. For example, a restaurant or bar could lose its liquor license. There could be a stop work order if there is wage theft found.

These numbers are based on statistical analysis through the U.S. Labor Department, reported wages and what workers were supposed to have been paid. It placed New York eighth in the dubious distinction of wage theft among the 50 states.

Workers should not be afraid to speak up about wage loss

A common reason workers do not get the wages they are entitled to is that they are either unaware of their rights under the law or they are worried about losing their job if they complain. This should not be part of the equation when trying to deal with wage theft.

Employers should not be allowed to take advantage of vulnerable workers and violate the basics of employment law – people being paid based on the law and the work they did. When there is concern over wage theft, it is imperative to know what can be done to hold employers accountable.