On December 13th, Governor David Paterson signed into law Assemblyman Heastie’s Wage Theft Prevention Act (A.11726).This legislation protects workers from wage and hour abuses by their employers. This new law will increase penalties for wage underpayments and for the failure of an employer to notify his or her employees of their wage rates and other rights. In addition, this law will provide anti-retaliatory protections to workers and increased enforcement tools for the Department of Labor. Wage theft is becoming increasingly rampant, harming low-wage families and communities, as well as undermining the employers that actually follow the law. In New York City alone, analysts estimate that wage theft results in nearly $1 billion stolen from low-wage workers every single year.
“The Wage Theft Prevention Act is a comprehensive approach to tackling the crime of wage theft. I am very proud of what we have accomplished with this legislation,” stated Assemblyman Heastie.
Changes the economic calculation offending employers make:
Increases liquidated damages employers must pay workers from 25% on top of wages to 100% -- matching the damages that are already the law in seven other states.
Provides damages for workers, and a private right of action, when employers fail to give required meal breaks, days of rest, pay stubs, or disclosures of wage rates. Ensures meaningful notice to workers of their rights by requiring notices be provided in employees’ native languages.
Encourages workers to report violations - and protects them when they do:
Improves protections against employer retaliation when workers have the guts to report violations.
Deters retaliation and compensates victims through provision of meaningful damages, up to $10,000.
Provides the Department of Labor (DOL) the same tools as courts to remedy retaliation.
Requires DOL to keep workers’ identities confidential during the course of investigation to minimize risk of employer retaliation.
Prevents employers from hiding assets to avoid judgments.
Provides automatic additional damages of 15% of total judgment where employers fail to pay on the judgment for more than 90 days.
Provides the Department of Labor with new tools to help collect money owed by defaulting employers.
Enacts more stringent and transparent record keeping and employee notification requirements.
Provisions in the WTPA are estimated to generate $47 million in cost savings to New York State.