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What is the Wage Theft Prevention Act?


Your questions about the Wage Theft Prevention Act, answered

Wage theft costs workers as much as $60 billion a year in unpaid wages. New York passed the Wage Theft Prevention Act in 2011 to protect employees from wage theft. Under the law, employers must provide written wage notices and pay stubs or face penalties of up to $10,000. Employees can also receive back pay, damages, and penalties for wage theft.

If you’ve experienced wage theft, an unpaid wages lawyer can help. Charles Joseph has 20 years of experience in wage theft law, and his firm has recovered more than $120 million for clients. Contact New Charles Joseph today for a free consultation.

New York Wage Theft Prevention Act FAQ

What is Wage Theft Prevention?

Wage theft occurs when an employer does not fully pay an employee for work the employee has performed. Unpaid wages can include not paying minimum wage, failing to pay overtime, or requiring off-the-clock work. It can also mean taking illegal deductions, not paying wages in a timely manner, or withholding a final paycheck.

Wage theft is a serious social and economic problem. It costs employees more than $60 billion a year. Workers in low-wage industries are most often the victims.

Federal, state, and local laws protect employees from unpaid wages. Wage theft laws help employees recover stolen wages from their employers and penalize employers for violating the law.

What is the Wage Theft Prevention Act?

The New York Wage Theft Prevention Act, passed in 2011, provides critical protections against wage theft. The protections include penalties if employers fail to provide written notice of the employee’s wage rate, overtime rate, the scheduled payday, and information about the employer. These written wage notices must be in English and the employee’s primary language.

The Act also requires employers to provide pay stubs showing the employee’s hours and wages earned. The Wage Theft Prevention Act also added stronger protections for wage theft whistleblowers and increased penalties for wage theft. For example, employers who fail to provide pay notices and pay stubs may owe penalties of up to $10,000 in damages per employee.

These protections provide employees with valuable information to determine whether they are victims of wage theft. If employers do not comply with these provisions, they face penalties. 

What is the Wage Theft Prevention Amendment Act of 2014?

On December 29, 2014, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed a bill amending the New York Wage Theft Prevention Act. Prior to the amendment, employers annual written notice of wage rates to each of their employees. Now, employers must provide wage rates to newly hired employees, but they no longer have to update employees annually.

The amendment also increased the penalties for an employer’s failure to provide pay notices. The penalty increased from $50 per week to $50 per day for every day the notice is not provided. The maximum penalty also increased from $2,500 per employee to $5,000 per employee. 

The amendment also increased the penalty for failing to provide pay stubs. Instead of $100 per violation, employers must pay $250 per violation with a statutory cap on damages of $5,000.

To help curb repeat offenses, penalties from $1,000 to $20,000 may be imposed upon employers found to have violated the law during the previous six years, up from a prior $10,000 statutory cap.  

Under the amendment, a portion of the judgment must go to the employees harmed. Previously, the Department of Labor could decide whether to grant part of the judgment to the employees.

What is the Wage Theft Penalty?

The Wage Theft Prevention Act imposes penalties for an employer’s failure to provide written pay notices to their employees. The penalty is $50 for every day the notice is not provided, up to a maximum of $5,000 per employee. The Act also includes a penalty if employees do not receive a pay stub, up to a maximum of $5,000 per employee.

Employees and employers can also read more about other wage and hour laws that protect workers in New York City.

What is the Wage Theft Punishment?

Employers who violate the Wage Theft Prevention Act face multiple penalties and punishments. Employers must provide written pay notices and pay stubs to employees. If they do not, they may have to pay a penalty of up to $10,000 per employee.

The Act punishes repeat offenses with penalties up to $20,000 for employers with violations in the last six years. 

What is Wage Theft Prevention Notice?

The Wage Theft Prevention Act requires employers to give written notice of wage rates to each newly hired employee.

The notice must include the following:

  • Rate of pay, including the overtime rate of pay if the employee is eligible for overtime
  • How the employee is to be paid (i.e. by the hour, salary, through commissions)
  • Any allowances taken (i.e. tips, meal and lodging deductions)
  • The regularly scheduled payday
  • The official name of the employer and any other names used for business
  • Address and phone number of the employer’s main office or principal location

The employer must provide the notice both in English and in the employee’s primary language. If the Labor Department does not offer a translation in any language, employers can provide the notice in English. The Labor Department currently offers translations in Spanish, Chinese, Haitian Creole, Korean, Polish and Russian. While no specific form is required, sample notices are available at the New York State Department of Labor’s website.

Employers can notify employees of pay rate increases or changes to the regular payday or primary business address on employee pay stubs. However, any pay reductions must be provided in a separate written notice one week prior to the reduction in pay.

Employers must receive a signed acknowledgment from each new employee that she or he received the wage notice. They must also keep copies of the notices and signed employee acknowledgements for six years following termination of employment.  

What is the Wage Theft Prevention and Wage Recovery Act?

The Wage Theft Prevent and Wage Recovery Act is a proposed federal law that has not been passed by Congress. The bill proposes many changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which is the federal wage/hour law, including the following:

  1. Require employers to pay the full amount of wages owed to an employee. Currently, under the FLSA, workers can only recover wages at the minimum wage rate. For example, an employee may be hired at $9.00 per hour, but would only have the right to recover $7.25 of every $9.00 she was owed.
  2. Require employers to provide employees with written notice of the terms of their employment, with fines for noncompliance.
  3. Require employers to pay final paychecks within 14 days of the last day of employment or by the payday for the pay period, whichever is earlier.
  4. Create a civil penalty of $2,000 when employers violate minimum wage and overtime protections under the FLSA.
  5. Increase the existing civil penalty for willful or repeat violations from $1,100 per violation to $10,000.
  6. Increase the damages employees are entitled to from twice the owed wages to triple the amount of owed wages.
  7. Strengthen protections against retaliation to quadruple the amount of owed wages.
  8. Create a civil penalty for record keeping violations of $1,000 for an employer’s first violation and $5,000 for each subsequent violation.
  9. Increase the time that employees have to bring a claim from two years to four years, and from three years to five years for willful violations.
  10. Make it easier for employees recover their stolen wages by allowing them to pursue collective action cases where members of the “class” must affirmatively “opt-out” of the case in order to not be involved instead of having to affirmatively “opt-in” to the collective action.

What Can You Do About Wage Theft?

If you have been the victim of wage theft, an employment lawyer can help recover back pay, unpaid overtime, and penalties. In New York state, if you were hired after 2011 and did not receive written notice of your wage rate, in English and in your primary language, your employer may have violated the wage protection laws. Similarly, if you do not receive regular pay stubs, you may have a claim.

Reach out to New York unpaid wages lawyer Charles Joseph for a free consultation today.

Learn more about common forms of wage theft and the penalties.

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