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02/24/2014 | Improving Job Quality

Protecting Workers and Ending Wage Theft

CPD is working closely with Make the Road NY and other partners to combat wage theft.

In 2010, New York workers won a significant victory with the passage of the Wage Theft Prevention Act, which increased penalties and improved notice requirements to stop the scourge of stolen wages from low-wage workers. But the passage of the act was only half the fight.

The NY Department of Labor (NYDOL) currently lacks the resources to make a dent in the wage theft epidemic. In New York City alone, wage theft results in nearly $1 billion being taken out of the pockets of low-wage workers every year. Yet since the 1960’s and 1970’s, the number of NYDOL investigators per capita has plummeted.

As of today, it would take an increase of 200 investigators to return the NYDOL to the staffing levels of decades ago.  We are urging Albany to dedicate the resources necessary to truly confront wage theft, which is the most prevalent financial crime against working people in New York State.

“There is an epidemic of wage theft in New York State and an enormous backlog of cases at the Department of Labor,” said Amy Carroll, Deputy Director of the Center for Popular Democracy. “Marginal improvements are insufficient. Governor Cuomo and the Legislature need to fully fund enforcement of minimum wage and overtime. The rule of law and the dignity of New York’s workers depend on their budgetary choices.”

In addition to fighting for an increased number of investigators, the Coalition is pushing back on an effort to repeal the law’s notice provision, which helps employers and workers understand their rights and responsibilities under the law.

The law requires employers to give written notice of wage rates to each new hire and to all employees by February 1 of each year. The notice must include:

  • Rate or rates of pay, including overtime rate of pay (if it applies)
  • How the employee is paid: by the hour, shift, day, week, commission, etc.
  • Regular payday
  • Official name of the employer and any other “doing business as” names of business
  • Address and phone number of the employer's main office or principal location
  • Allowances taken as part of the minimum wage (tips, meal and lodging deductions)
  • The notice must be given both in English and in the employee's primary language (if the Labor Department provides a translation of the notice form in that language).

The NYS Coalition to End Wage Theft is an alliance of labor, small business, community, faith, legal services, and policy organizations to tackle the crime of wage theft. Steering committee member groups include (list in formation): Make the Road New York, the Center for Popular Democracy, the National Employment Law Project, Laborers Local 78, Laborers Local 79, Laborers Local 108, Laborers Local 1010, the New York State Labor-Religion Coalition, and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.

The Center for Popular Democracy will be providing research, organizing, and strategy support to similar campaigns against wage theft across the country in 2014.