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New York State Department of Labor

Governor Cuomo Announces Nearly $15 Million In Stolen Wages Returned to Workers in First Half Of 2017

Governor Continues Efforts to Combat Worker Exploitation; Over 21,000 Victims of Wage Theft Helped

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Albany, NY (July 19, 2017) -

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that $14.8 million has been returned to 21,271 victims of wage theft between January and June of 2017 - on pace to exceed last year's totals of $26.4 million returned to 23,600 workers. These wage recoveries are a result of the Governor's efforts to root out worker exploitation in multiple industries across New York State. Since Governor Cuomo took office, the state has recovered and returned more than $150 million to workers, the highest total in the nation.

"This administration has zero tolerance for those who cheat their workers out of what they're rightfully owed," Governor Cuomo said. "We will continue to combat worker exploitation in all of its forms in order to help ensure no New Yorker is denied a decent day's pay for a decent day's work."

The following table provides a regional breakdown of the $14,841,500 distributed to 21,271 victims of wage theft in the first six months of 2017:

Region Amount Disbursed Number of Workers
Capital Region $477,700 2,277
Central New York $86,900 189
Finger Lakes $250,000 661
Long Island $2,515,000 1,643
Mid-Hudson $1,043,000 1,403
Mohawk Valley $27,700 144
New York City $8,000,000 11,641
North Country $505,000 416
Southern Tier $35,600 90
Western New York $500,600 1,634
Statewide* $1,400,000 1,173
TOTAL $14,841,500 21,271
* Statewide recoveries are paid out to workers in multiple regions

Some of the most common ways employers steal wages include:

  • 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;
  • Not paying for travel time between work assignments in the same day;
  • Withholding final paychecks;
  • Not paying for "training" time; and
  • Charging employees for required uniforms or equipment.

Building on the success of 2015's first-in-the-nation Exploited Workers Task Force, Governor Cuomo issued Executive Order 159 in July 2016, establishing a permanent Joint Task Force on Employee Misclassification and Worker Exploitation. The Governor's Executive Order merged three existing multi-agency task forces to coordinate cross-agency efforts designed to protect workers in a variety of industries where they are often victims of abuse but do not come forward for fear of retaliation. Many of these individuals are immigrants and frequent victims of wage theft. They are often subjected to unsafe or unsanitary working conditions; long and irregular work hours; and illegal deductions for supplies, training, and uniforms. They tend to work off the books, have dangerous jobs, and are often geographically isolated.

Additionally, the Governor created Mediation and Anti-Retaliation Units within the Department of Labor. The Mediation Unit attempts to expedite resolutions so that workers receive the money they're owed more quickly. The Anti-Retaliation Unit acts on behalf of workers who are subject to unfavorable action against them for filing a complaint about labor law violations or reporting them to the authorities.

"Governor Cuomo has been a leader in the fight against wage theft in our state," said State Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon. "The overwhelming majority of businesses in New York State follow the law. The Department of Labor is aggressive in bringing bad actors to justice, and rest assured, we will not stop investigating these crimes or working to make victims whole."

Anyone who wishes to file a wage theft complaint is encouraged to call 1-888-4-NYSDOL.


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