NYS Governor Signs Historic Legislation to Control Wage Theft : Tompkins County Workers’ Center Applauds Law That Promotes Lawful Treatment and Recourse to Justice for All NY Workers

On Monday, December 13th, Governor Paterson signed the Wage Theft Prevention Act into law. This law will increase the power of the Department of Labor to investigate wage theft cases and collect monies owed, will increase penalties for guilty employers and add protections for workers who speak up against wage theft.

The Tompkins County Workers’ Center has helped victims of wage theft win judgments totalling over a million dollars. Unfortunately, some of those workers have been unable to collect their rightful payments due to weak or nonexistent legislation prior to the December 13, 2010 signing. The local wage theft cases have included employees being paid less than the minimum wage, being cheated out of overtime, tips stolen and in some cases, workers have not received wages at all. Penalties have been so low in the past there has been no incentive for immoral employers to obey the law. Law-abiding employers are put at a disadvantage when their competitors reduce their costs by stealing workers’ pay.

“By signing the Wage Theft Prevention Act (http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?default_fld=&bn=A11726&Summary=Y&Text=Y), Governor Paterson makes a commitment that New York State will finally stand up for workers like me who have been cheated out of our hard-earned wages. It is time for New York to catch up with many other states where wage theft laws punish unprincipled employers. Let’s use the power of New York State to ensure fair treatment for vulnerable, low-wage workers,” said James Douglas, Ithaca resident and Tompkins County Workers’ Center Community Union organizer. James was one of a large number of employees of the now defunct Hogsback BarBQ whose wages were stolen but, due to the lack of a wage theft law, were unable to collect their judgment.

Tompkins County workers now have the law on their side when they stand up for their dignity, demanding that their employers follow the law.

Interviews with victims of wage theft are available.