New York State Returns Over $35 Million in Stolen Wages to Workers

New York State Capitol Building

The State of New York returned $35.37 million in stolen wages to 36,466 workers last year. Since Governor Andrew Cuomo took office, the state recovered and returned $254.4 million to 215,335 victims of wage theft.

In 2015, Gov. Cuomo created the Exploited Workers’ Task Force to identify and eliminate illegal practices in industries across the state. Ten state agencies including the Department of Labor were part of the Task Force.

The following year, Gov. Cuomo signed Executive Order No. 159 establishing a permanent Joint Task Force in Employee Misclassification and Worker Exploitation. The order combined three existing multi-agency task forces to coordinate cross-agency efforts to protect workers in different industries where victims of abuse are afraid to report their situation.

Many of those victims are immigrants and often subjected to unsafe or unsanitary working conditions and long and irregular work hours.

Additionally, employers illegally deduct their wages supplies, training, and uniforms. These workers also tend to work off the books, have dangerous jobs, and often isolated.

New York State has zero tolerance for wage theft

In a statement, Gov. Cuomo said, “We have zero tolerance for those who seek to rob employees out of an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo

In addition, the governor emphasized that his administration will continue to do everything in its power to protect workers. His administration will stop deceitful tactics and “ensure that they are paid what they are owed.”

On the other hand, State Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon said, “We’ve taken unprecedented action to ensure that those who have wages stolen get what they’re owed.”

“I applaud the dedicated investigators who have helped build New York’s reputation as a national leader in the fight against wage theft,” added Reardon.

The state’s Department of Labor established Mediation and Anti-Retaliation Units to further its wage recovery efforts. The Mediation Unit tried to expedite resolutions so that workers receive their stolen wages faster. The Anti-Retaliation Unit protects workers who are under negative situation after filing a complaint against their employers for violating labor laws.

Some of the most common ways employers steal wages from workers

  • Paying tips only
  • Paying a day rate for work performed that is sub-minimum wage when hours worked are counted
  • Not paying an overtime rate for hours worked over 40 in a payroll week
  • Failure to pay the correct prevailing wage
  • Not paying for travel time between work assignments in the same day
  • Withholding final paychecks
  • Not paying for “training” time
  • Charging employees for required uniforms or equipment