Wage Theft Prevention & Responsible Employer Protection Act

A new bill is sitting with the New York Senate and State Assembly hoping to hold responsible those employers who violate wage and hour laws by hitting them where it hurts – through increased penalties.

From the NY Times City Room:

The legislation — introduced in the State Senate and State Assembly — would subject employers that fail to pay, for instance, $10,000 in legally required overtime to having to pay twice that amount in damages. That would be above and beyond the $10,000 in back wages that current law already requires such employers to pay…For support, the bill’s backers cite a report by the National Employment Law Project [pdf] that found that the city’s low-wage workers experienced more than $18 million in wage violations each week, or nearly $1 billion a year. The report found that more than 300,000 low-wage workers in New York suffer wage violations each week, or $3,016 on average per year in minimum-wage, overtime and other wage violations.

The aforementioned report also found that 51% of workers were paid $1 less than minimum wage, 77% were not paid the legally required overtime rate by their employer and 70% were not given sufficient breaks during the workday. These are not insignificant numbers.

With these statistics in mind, the Act also allows for fines of $10,000 against employer for any retaliatory action taken against an employee objecting to any wage violation. It also provides that any delays in back pay would cost even more than it does now.

Because many employers delay complying with back-pay judgments, the legislation would increase penalties by 30 percent against employers that do not pay wage judgments within 90 days.

This bill has garnered the support of several unions including the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.

While this seems to be onerous for employers, it’s not really asking anyone to do anything that they shouldn’t be doing in the first place. And it not only helps the employee, but it also helps the state in a myriad of ways.

Personally, I think bills like this should be introduced in every state. It only reinforces what we HR folks have been saying for years.