Two investigations published by Documented and ProPublica revealed that more than 127,000 New Yorkers have been victims of wage theft during a recent five-year period, but that the New York State Department of Labor was unable to recover $79 million in back wages owed to the workers.
In order to address this issue of wage theft, New York Lawmakers proposed three new bills which would make it increasingly difficult for wage theft violators to conduct business in the state by enabling state agencies to strip violators who cheat works out of overtime and minimum wage of their liquor and business licenses, as well as issuing stop-work orders against them.
“We did not have the data to understand the scale of the issue in New York state until the ProPublica and Documented series came out last year. Having this reporting as a tool set us up to put this package together and focused our attention on the Department of Labor,” stated Sen. Jessica Ramos, a Democrat who sponsored the legislation.
Dubbed the “wage theft deterrence package” by lawmakers, the three bills would:
- Empower the New York State Liquor Authority to suspend liquor licenses for bars and restaurants that the Department of Labor has determined owe more than $1,000 in back wages to their worked;
- Allow the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance to suspend a business’s certificate of authority—which allows them to collect sales tax and conduct business—in cases where wage theft exceeds $1,000.
- Enable the Department of Labor to place a stop-work order on any business that has a wage theft claim of at least $1,000, a measure which has been proven successful in other states such as New Jersey.
The bills were praised by worker advocates and urban studies academics, including the director of economic and fiscal policies at The New School’s Center for New York City Affairs. “These bills are needed to put more teeth into New York’s enforcement efforts. We owe it to hardworking low-wage workers and law-abiding employers.”
If you have questions about your rights as a worker or responsibilities as an employer, please contact the attorneys of Pechman Law Group at 212-583-9500.