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In December 2010, New York State strengthened wage payment protections for employees with the Wage Theft Prevention Act, which will go into effect on April 9, 2011. The Act expands the right of employees to seek civil and criminal remedies against employers who pay them less than the wages to which they are entitled.
Notably, the legislation increases liquidated damages on unpaid wages from 25% to 100% in court actions. To facilitate collection of wages ordered to be paid, the Act automatically increases the total judgment amount by 15% if an employer defaults on payment for more than 90 days. The Act also authorizes public posting of employer violations, and extends criminal penalties to cover non-payment of minimum wage or overtime compensation. Those penalties include fines ranging from $5,000 to $20,000 and imprisonment for up to a year.
The Act increases protection for employees who report wage law violations by assuring that employee complaints need not cite specific labor law provisions to trigger retaliation protections. In addition to allowing for liquidated damages of up to $10,000 for victims of prohibited retaliation, the Act provides the Commissioner with all necessary tools, including ordering reinstatement, to remedy retaliation.
The Act also imposes new notice and record-keeping requirements, and sets out penalties for employers who fail to comply.