Major crackdown to combat wage theft

Governor Kathy Hochul seen with Attorney General Letitia James
Governor Kathy Hochul seen with Attorney General Letitia James, announces new developments in a multi-pronged effort to combat wage theft and protect the paychecks of hardworking New Yorkers.
Don Pollard / Office of Governor Kathy Hochul

Gov. Kathy Hochul on Tuesday announced major actions to combat wage theft and protect the paychecks of hardworking New Yorkers.

The governor announced that the Wage Theft Task Force, a coordinated effort between the New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL), the New York state attorney general and district attorneys, has recently secured felony convictions and agreements from more than a dozen businesses and 265 individuals to pay nearly $3 million in wage restitution and contributions owed to New York State since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hochul also announced new efforts to double down on the success of the Task Force, launching a new hotline and developing a state-of-the-art online wage theft reporting system to create more opportunities for workers to report wage theft and receive what they are owed while protecting their privacy and safety.

Starting on Tuesday, New Yorkers can report wage theft directly to the New York State Department of Labor by calling the new hotline at 833-910-4378, which has interpretation services available.

The online reporting system will give New Yorkers the ability to report wage theft online in a variety of languages while improving the Department’s ability to track complaints and identify trends.

“As we work to help New Yorkers recover from the economic hardship of the pandemic, we must ensure we are protecting workers and guarantee they receive the pay they are owed,” Gov. Hochul said. “The Wage Theft Task Force has already secured major victories for workers, and I thank the attorney general and district attorneys for their partnership with the Department of Labor to crack down on bad actors and deliver justice to workers.

“I am proud that we are doubling down on our efforts in order to help more workers and make it clear that in New York, wage theft will never be tolerated,” she added.

“Wage theft is a serious issue and I join the governor, attorney general and the Department of Labor in saying that New York will not tolerate the theft of hardworking New Yorker’s livelihoods,” said Lt. Gov. Antonio Delgado. “The measures announced today will help us combat this issue and bring restitution to these victims.”

To further empower New Yorkers to report theft, NYSDOL has also begun developing a new, state-of-the-art Worker Protection Management System, where New Yorkers can report claims online in multiple languages and receive updates in real time about the status of their claim.

The $10 million project, set to be complete in 2023, will also provide the department with real time data, enhancing its ability to analyze and identify violation trends.

This builds on the governor’s ongoing efforts to improve transparency and increase accountability in State government.

The Wage Theft Task Force initially leveraged criminal laws to achieve justice for construction workers in cases involving wage theft, fraud, and safety hazards.

The Task Force has recently expanded its scope into other industries and counties in New York State.

The Wage Theft Task Force includes NYSDOL, the New York State Attorney General’s Office, the New York State Insurance Fund (NYSIF), the Offices of District Attorneys across the State, and the New York City Department of Investigation.

The Task Force works closely with labor unions and community-based organizations as part of efforts to support workers and recover owed wages.

New York State Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon said, “Our investigators, District Attorneys, and law enforcement agencies across the State are pursuing bad actors who look to cheat hardworking New Yorkers out of what they’re owed. My message to unscrupulous employers is clear: We will not tolerate the mistreatment of workers. If you violate our labor laws, we will find you and hold you accountable. We will never stop fighting to protect all New York workers.”

In April 2022, Lintech Electric, Inc. agreed to pay $900,000 in restitution to more than 200 workers after failing to pay prevailing wage and submitting false payroll documents while working as a subcontractor on several projects with the New York City Housing Authority.

New York State Attorney General Letitia James said, “Each and every day, hardworking New Yorkers move our state forward – they are what make us great. For too long and too often, greedy employers have preyed upon these same workers, cheating them out of the wages they have rightfully earned.

“In the last two years, my office has returned over $15 million to more than 15,000 victims of wage theft statewide, and we will continue to do everything in our power to ensure that bad actors who steal from New Yorkers are held accountable,” she said. “I am grateful to Gov. Hochul, Commissioner Reardon, and all members of the Wage Theft Task Force for their partnership and relentless commitment to fight for the working people of New York.”

On Feb. 17, 2022, Brooklyn’s Designcore Ltd. took a corporate plea with a conditional discharge which includes paying $39,400 in restitution to six employees after failing to pay wages and overtime for workers.

On Sept. 22, 2020, Queen resident Jagdep Deol pleaded guilty to failure to pay a prevailing wage on behalf of his company, Laser Electrical Contracting. This is a felony charge for withholding more than $1.5 million in prevailing wages from 11 employees on projects for the New York City School Construction Authority and the New York City Department of Education.

As part of a plea agreement, Deol is required to make full restitution to the victims and will reimburse New York City approximately $160,000 in investigation costs. Deol also pled guilty to a misdemeanor violation of the New York State Prevailing Wage Labor Law.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said, “Persistent bad actors have systematically abused and cheated their employees. My office will continue to hold these employers accountable and protect workers who have been victimized.

“This is an issue of fairness, economic opportunity and racial justice,” he said. “I’m grateful to Gov. Hochul and NYSDOL for creating a way with language access for New Yorkers to report wage theft.”

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said, “Workers deserve every dollar that they’re owed, and these cases send a strong message to unscrupulous employers that cheating workers doesn’t pay.

“Wage theft cases are a top priority for my dedicated Labor Fraud Unit, and I’m grateful to the Governor, Inspector General, the Wage Theft Task Force, and our partners in labor for their collaboration, and for their leadership taking on this all-too-pervasive crime that victimizes hardworking New Yorkers,” he added.

Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said, “Unscrupulous employers and contractors who choose to do business in New York are on notice that we will not stand for theft, fraud or unsafe work conditions in our City and State. Not only is wage theft a pervasive problem, but it also disproportionately impacts the most vulnerable members of our community and negatively impacts our economy.

“That is why I created the Housing & Worker Protection Bureau upon taking office, to make sure that employees (and homeowners) are protected from illegal actions,” she said. “I thank Gov. Kathy Hochul, Attorney General Letitia James, and all the public officials for their hard work in safeguarding New York’s workforce.”

Over the past decade, NYSDOL said it had recovered and dispersed more than $360 million in stolen wages, identified over a million misclassified workers, and assessed over $400 million owed in unemployment insurance contributions through both criminal cases and civil enforcement.

All private businesses in New York State are required to pay the minimum wage and overtime and adhere to state and federal labor laws. NYSDOL helps collect underpayments for workers who have not received the minimum wage. New Yorkers who need assistance or want to file a complaint can email labor.[email protected] or call: 1-888-4-NYSDOL (1-888-469-7365).

Prevailing wage is the pay rate set by law for work on public work projects. Per New York State Labor Law, contractors and subcontractors must pay the prevailing rate of wage and supplements to all workers under a public work contract based on the locality where the work is performed.

To report prevailing work violations, email: [email protected].