NEW EFFORTS TO PROTECT WORKERS IN NEW YORK
In these difficult economic times, it is not uncommon for workers find themselves taken advantage of by unsavory and corrupt business practices. Workers who are paid in cash, off-the-books, and whose work schedules vary from day-to-day, week-to-week, or month-to-month are particularly vulnerable to exploitation from their employers. Our Award Winning New York Employment Attorney discusses New York State’s latest efforts to combat worker exploitation.
Q: What kind of exploitation are we talking about?
A: The State has created a Joint Taskforce to investigate certain illegal business practices by employers including:
• Theft of wages and tips;
• Failure to pay overtime wages;
• Failure to pay minimum wage;
• Failure to protect workers with mandatory Worker’s Compensation coverage;
• Failure to provide stable or scheduled hours for workers;
• Taking illegal deductions for supplies, training, or uniforms;
• Failure to pay Unemployment Insurance contributions;
• Keeping hazardous, unsafe, and/or unsanitary working and living conditions; and • Retaliating against workers who have complained of violations.
In one circumstance, airport workers testified that they were not receiving fair wages and benefits so that there was no wage and benefit parity between airline employee and workers. In another, “workers in the agriculture industry testified that they were exposed to unsafe working conditions and exposed to hazardous chemicals.”
Q: Which industries are typically investigated?
A: Typically, workers that work for employers that pay in cash or off-the-books are most at risk. It should come as no surprise that many of these industries often employ immigrants, who make up a large (although not exclusive) number of victims of worker exploitation. Many of these jobs don’t have regular or steady hours, and the workers won’t know there work schedules with sufficient notice.
The Task Force has identified violations in a multitude of industries including:
• Janitorial Services;
• Car Washes;
• Nail Salons;
• Home Health Care;
• Laundry; and • Transportation, including Airport and Trucking
Q: How are the matters reported?
A: By any number of people including: workers, their families, or current or former employees. As the fear of retaliation can have a chilling effect on complaints, however, often these abuses can go unreported for a long time. It is important for workers to step forward and speak up to stop an injustice.
As we’ve detailed in previous postings, however, retaliation is against the law as well. In one case, after an investigation, two workers who had been illegally terminated for complaining about violations such as stolen wages were reinstated to their positions, and the employer was made to pay fines and damages in excess of $71,000. Contacting an experienced attorney can inform you of your rights and potentially help recover possible back wages, prospective wages, and other damages.
Q: How common is wage theft and who can I call?
Every case is different, but if you believe that you and/or your coworkers are the victims of worker exploitation such as wage theft, contact our Award Winning New York Employment Law Attorney to confidentially learn your rights and options at (800) 893-9645.
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