Preventing wage theft in New York, part 1: setting standards
“Theft” is a very basic, plain-English word. It is short. It has only one syllable. And it refers to what historically was a very straightforward action: taking someone else’s property.
Today, however, in our complex world, theft also takes new forms. The huge theft of personal data recently from Target Corporation called attention, for example, to the problem of data theft and its connection to identity theft.
In the employment context, there is also a type of theft that can affect many workers. It is called wage theft. As we will discuss in this two-part post, it occurs when employers fail to honor state and federal laws on fair labor standards.
At the federal level, the landmark law is still the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The FLSA sets out many wage-and-hour standards that apply across the nation. These include standards for meal and rest breaks, as well overtime pay.
But there are also state laws that regulate wage-and-hour provisions. Let us turn our attention, then, to a discussion of New York state’s Wage Theft Prevention Act (WTPA).
The WTPA was passed in 2010 and took effect in April of 2011. It added several additional protections to New York’s Labor Law 215. It also granted additional enforcement authority to the New York State Department of Labor.
One of these additional protections is an expanded definition of what constitutes retaliation against an employee for complaining about not getting paid properly.
Under previous law, it was already impermissible to terminate or discipline an employee for raising a lost salary or other wage-and-hour complaint. The WTPA also made it impermissible to threaten an employee with such actions.
In addition, if an employer is found to have retaliated against an employee for making a wage-theft or other labor-law complaint, the employer may even face criminal penalties.
In part two of this post, we will discuss what the WTPA has to say about wage statements and payroll records.
Source: New York State Department of Labor, “Wage Theft Prevention Act,” Accessed March 4, 2014