On September 6, Governor Kathy Hochul signed a law that will make wage theft a crime under New York State law. Employers who intentionally deprive their employees of their hard-earned wages may now face a felony charge of criminal larceny. This is meant to curb the disturbing trend of wage theft, which has only become a greater problem over time.
What is Wage Theft?
Put simply, wage theft is the term for any time an employer takes money from an employee by failing to pay them what they are legally owed. This can mean paying them less than what they might be entitled to, failing to pay them at all, or failing to give them benefits that an employer is required to give them. Wage theft is a shockingly common offense, costing workers as much as $60 billion a year across the United States.
How Do Employers Engage in Wage Theft?
Sometimes, wage theft is simply about underpaying workers, such as not giving them time-and-a-half for overtime, or failing to pay them for overtime entirely. Sometimes it involves illegal tip sharing or tip pooling schemes that deprive workers of the tips they have earned. Other times, it may involve taking illegal deductions from an employee’s paycheck, or depriving them of sick or vacation days. It can even involve illegally misclassifying employees as independent contractors, potentially depriving them of legal protections and burdening them with Social Security taxes without their knowledge.
What Will This Law Do?
This new law amends the state’s Penal Code so that “compensation for labor services” is now considered a form of property under the larceny law, and amends the definition of larceny to include money stolen “by wage theft.” It also allows prosecutors to aggregate all underpayments or nonpayments into a single larceny charge for the purposes of determining the size of the penalty. Employers and their agents convicted of this crime can face fines of up to $50,000 or imprisonment for up to one year.
What Should You Do if You Are the Victim of Wage Theft?
If you have been unjustly deprived of your wages or benefits by your employer, you may have several options available to you. You should report wage theft to your state’s Department of Labor, which may result in your employer facing legal and financial penalties. You should consider speaking to a lawyer with experience handling labor law claims, who can help you get compensation for the harm you have suffered.
Steven Mitchell Sack, the Employee’s Lawyer, is a New York employment lawyer with more than 42 years’ experience handling the many aspects of employment law. His new book, “Fired!: Protect Your Rights & FIGHT BACK If You’re Terminated, Laid Off, Downsized, Restructured, Forced to Resign or Quit,” is available in hardback, and contains valuable advice on dealing with employment and labor law issues. To purchase the book, feel free to contact Steven Sack at 917-371-8000 or visit the website at legalstratpub.com. To inquire about a legal matter, please feel free to contact attorney Steven Sack at 917-371-8000 or firstname.lastname@example.org.