Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Best state for wage theft: NY

Some will rob you with a six gun, some with a fountain pen.
If you're an employee, that is. New York passed a law last year that levies stiff fines for stealing workers' pay. In These Times described the penalties:
...First, it strengthened transparency and notice-keeping requirements, including requiring that employers notify workers a week ahead of time before changing wage rates or paydays.  Second, it strengthened damages, raising penalties from 25 percent of unpaid wages to 100 percent, which will now increase if employers don’t pay up within 90 days. Finally, it strengthened protections for workers who come forward: The law established fines of up to $10,000 for retaliation, expanded its definition, and extended its protection to workers who step up to advocate for their co-workers.
New York's working people are learning about the law through workers centers, attorneys and the news media. New York employers are learning to take the law seriously. A New York City restaurant, Veranda, had to pay $150,000 to 25 workers for wage theft, and an additional $50,000 to two workers who were fired after they complained their wages were being stolen.

Miami-Dade County also has a wage-theft law, which anti-worker lawmakers tried to overturn a few months ago. (Think about it. Making it illegal to make theft illegal.) The Florida Retail Federation sued the county on the grounds the ordinance was unconstitutional. Fortunately, the judge would have none of it and called the law a "responsible and reasonable exercise of government authority."

And if punishing theft isn't a reasonable exercise of government authority, we'd like to know what is.