Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the results of a broad partnership with the District Attorneys of all five New York City Counties, Westchester and Nassau Counties and New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman to bring criminal charges against contractors who have stolen wages. Approximately $1.2 million owed to nearly 400 workers has been identified and nearly $700,000 has already been returned to workers.
“New York believes in a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work and has zero tolerance for those who seek to rob employees and deny them the wages they are rightfully owed,” Governor Cuomo said. “This crackdown sends a strong and direct message that worker’s rights will be protected and the principles of fairness and equality will continue to be upheld in this great state.” Attorney General Schneiderman added, “my office has zero tolerance for wage theft. Since 2011, we’ve recovered nearly $30 million in stolen wages for more than 21,000 workers – and we’ll continue to ensure that New York’s working families are given the fair shake they deserve.”
The recent enforcement crackdown in the downstate construction industry was initiated in response to reports of widespread worker’s rights exploitation in the industry. Immigrant workers comprise a disproportionate number of the working population in construction. These workers are more likely to be taken advantage of via wage theft or unsafe working conditions, particularly on non-union construction sites. This enforcement initiative follows similar crackdowns in the nail salon and laundry industries, among others.
The effort is ongoing – the Department of Labor continues to investigate and refer instances of wage theft to law enforcement partners – meaning that more bad actors will be brought to justice and more workers will be made whole. Notable cases include: VIR NYC, Whisk, Sky Materials, City Metro, Magnetic Contracting Corp, J&D Painting Contractors, AVM Contracting, National Insulation and General Contracting Corp., AVM Construction, National Insulation and General Contracting Corp. Ongoing cases include active investigations in multiple counties, including Brooklyn, Westchester, Richmond and Manhattan.
Another city official said, “Every week, New Yorkers lose $20 million in unpaid wages. And every day, construction workers who risk their lives doing dangerous jobs have to wonder whether they’ll actually be paid for their work. Wage theft is one of the most pervasive problems in New York City and State, and in the construction industry in particular, workers are all too often preyed upon by their employers, who are able to steal millions of dollars in unpaid wages. I’m proud and grateful to stand with our partners in law enforcement and government against this type of fraud. As the giving season approaches, it is my hope that the holidays will be that much brighter for the families of more than 300 New Yorkers who will be receiving $500,000 in back pay owed to them.”