New York Targets Wage and Hour Theft

Starting April 12, employers in New York will face tougher penalties if they violate wage and hour laws. The state’s newly-adopted New York Wage Theft Prevention Act (WTPA) also imposes new notification requirements on employers. According to The National Law Review, <"">wage and hour theft is considered a widespread problem in New York, where just last year, the state’s Department of Labor recovered $28.8 million in unpaid wages.

In addition to the tougher state law, there are also indications that federal regulators plan on being more aggressive in their enforcement of employment laws in the very near future.

According to The National Law Review, the <"">New York WTPA raises the liquidated damages recoverable by employees who win a civil or administrative action for unpaid overtime from the current 25 percent of the lost wages to 100 percent. Employees who file successfu<"">l unpaid overtime lawsuits may also be awarded prejudgment interest, attorneys’ fees, and 15 percent interest if the employer fails to pay the court-awarded damages within 90 days of judgment.

The WTPA also provides for criminal penalties for employers who violate overtime and minimum wage regulations, The National Law Review said. Among other things, they may be convicted of a misdemeanor, fined up to $20,000 and face up to one year in prison. Employers who violate the law multiple times within a six-year period may be guilty of a felony. The WTPA also imposes penalties, including fines and prison time, for employers who fail to maintain accurate record. Employers found guilty of violating wage and hour laws may also be required to post a notice of the violation in a visible workplace location for up to one year, while those who are guilty of repeated violations could also be made to post a similar notice in a public place for up to 90 days.

Among other things, the WTPA also requires employers to provide notice to newly hired employees of the basis for the wage payment (i.e., hourly, daily, weekly, by commission, per piece, etc.) and whether the employer intends to claim any wage deductions, for example, meal or lodging allowances, according to The National Law Review. The notice must be in English, and in the language identified by the employee as his or her primary language. The employer must also obtain a signed acknowledgement from the employee that this notification was provided. This same notice is also required to be given to all current employees by February 1, 2012, and by February 1 in every subsequent year thereafter, The National Law Review said. Both new and current employees can recover damages if these notification requirements are violated.

Meanwhile, employers across the country could face stricter enforcement of wage and hour laws on the federal level. is reporting that the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) is requesting $241 million – an increase of $13.3 million – from the 2011 federal budget to put toward the regulation and enforcement of employment laws. The WHD also plans on hiring more than 100 full-time staffers in order to go after employers guilty of wrongly misclassifying employees as independent contractors. Those investigations will target industries that have a history of racking up such violations, including construction, child care, business services, landscaping and others. is also reporting that the Department of Labor will be updating its Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) recordkeeping requirements, including adding a requirement that would make employers perform a classification analysis for each employee deemed exempt from overtime regulations. Employers would be required to share that analysis with each worker.

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