On July 19, 2022, New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced via a press release the progress and enhanced efforts by the Wage Theft Task Force to combat wage theft when perpetrated by New York employers.
In the announcement, Governor Hochul stated in part the following:
"As we work to help New Yorkers recover from the economic hardship of the pandemic, we must ensure we are protecting workers and guarantee they receive the pay they are owed… The Wage Theft Task Force has already secured major victories for workers, and I thank the Attorney General and District Attorneys for their partnership with the Department of Labor to crack down on bad actors and deliver justice to workers. I am proud that we are doubling down on our efforts in order to help more workers and make it clear that in New York, wage theft will never be tolerated."
The Wage Theft Task Force is a joint effort between the state’s Department of Labor (DOL), Attorney General and District Attorneys. The efforts of the task force were initially concentrated in the construction industry in regard to wage theft, failure to pay prevailing wages in public works contracts, fraud, and safety hazards. However, the task force has expanded its mandate into other industries in New York including restaurant enterprises focusing on wage theft, misclassification of employees and overtime pay.
Progress to date
In the Governor’s press release, it was revealed that the Task Force has secured felony convictions and agreements from “more than a dozen businesses and 265 individuals to pay $3 million in wage restitution and contributions owed to New York State since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.” Detailed information regarding civil agreements and felony convictions may be found in the press release.
Announced task force enhancements
Governor Hochul announced the following enhancements to the New York wage theft prevention efforts.
· Beginning July 19, 2022, New Yorkers are provided the ability to report wage theft directly to the state’s DOL via a hotline at (833) 910-4378. Language interpretation services for a number of languages are available for non-English speaking callers.
· Efforts are underway by the New York DOL to implement a “state-of-the-art Worker Protection System” that will enable New Yorkers to report claims online in multiple languages. This $10 million project that will allow those who have filed a claim to receive claim status updates in real time is scheduled to be completed sometime in 2023.
New York employers may wish to consult with appropriate legal counsel and other advisors to conduct a review of relevant practices.
In particular, employers should ensure that:
· Employees are properly classified as either exempt or non-exempt from overtime and minimum wage requirements.
· Non-exempt employees are paid at least minimum wage for all hours and paid for overtime hours at the correct amount.
· Independent contractors are not more appropriately classified as employees.
· All employees are timely paid.
· Tipped employees are properly paid, tips are not withheld from employees and any tip pooling arrangements are lawful.
· Any deductions from wages are lawful.
· Prevailing wage requirements are satisfied as applicable.
· Pay statements issued to employees are accurate and complete, with all required information clearly displayed.
· You have a process in place for maintaining required payroll records under your data retention policy and for at least the period of time required by law.
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