According to an article in the Albany Times Union last week, the returning New York legislature is close to passing a state-wide law against wage theft. If they pass it and the governor signs it, New York could start 2011 with a strong Wage Theft law similar to the other 25 states who have already passed their laws.
We reported earlier this fall that New York State passed the Construction Industry Fair Play Act, which deals with the problem of worker misclassification. Now both state houses have passed drafts of this new Wage Theft Prevention Act and all that is left is for the Assembly to agree to and pass the Senate version and then for the governor to sign it.
The Times Union article reported that according to a recent study by the National Employment Law Project, in New York City “21 percent of low-wage workers are paid less than the minimum wage, 77 percent weren't paid time-and-a-half when they worked overtime, and 69 percent didn't receive any pay at all when they came in early or stayed late after their shift.” That amounts to 300,000 workers and over $18.4 million or $1 billion per year according to the study.
One of the most interesting parts of the Senate-passed law is the provision that the employer convicted of wage theft will have to pay three times the amount of the unpaid wages. That will catch the attention of a number of employers in the low-wage industries like construction, food services, and janitorial services. The treble damages provision of this law will surely catch the attention of other states such as Texas, who will likely consider wage theft laws in their 2011 legislative sessions.
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