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March 2023: New York City D.A. Wants to Prosecute Wage Theft as a Crime

21 Mar

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Update Applicable to:
All employers in New York City.

What happened?
On February 16, 2023, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg, Jr. announced that his office has partnered with the New York State Department of Labor and local law enforcement to create the “Worker Protection Unit” and “Stolen Wages Fund.”

What are the details?
The newly created Worker Protection Unit will pursue criminal charges against companies and individual executives and managers who deprive (or “steal”) wages from their workers. The Stolen Wage Fund will seek to compensate alleged victims of wage theft who cannot be adequately compensated through civil or criminal actions against the employer.

D.A. Bragg said the initiative would combat wage theft, which he believes continues to plague New York City workers, particularly the most vulnerable low-income and undocumented workers.  He pledged to punish employers that exploit these workers by “stealing” their wages or jeopardizing their safety in the workplace.

An employer who engages in wage theft could face charges of larceny (property theft) and be prohibited from receiving future New York City contracts. In a related development, recently introduced Senate Bill S2832 sponsored by State Senator Neil D. Breslin (D), would amend New York State’s Grand Larceny laws to add “wage theft” to the list of activities included in the crime of larceny.  The bill is currently in the Senate Committee for approval. If passed, the bill would go into effect immediately.

It is not clear how the District Attorney’s office defines “wage theft” or “stealing wages” that would subject an employer to prosecution. Among the open questions is whether an employer must act willfully or purposely to deprive employees of their wages to be prosecuted. It is also unclear whether the Worker Protection Unit will consider prosecutions for unfair treatment of independent contractors performing work in New York or of out-of-state employers with employees located in New York.

For more information, please see the links below:

Senate Bill S2832

Article 1Article 2

What do employers need to do?
Employers should review the links provided above and should be on the lookout for any more updates regarding this unit and the newly introduced bill. Vensure will continue to provide more updates once more news has been received.

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This communication is intended solely for the purpose of conveying information. The present post might incorporate hyperlinks directing readers to websites managed by third-party entities. The inclusion of any links within this communication is meant to serve as points of reference and could encompass opinion articles from various law firms, articles from HR associations, official websites, news releases, and documents of government agencies, and other relevant third-party sources. Vensure has no authority over these external websites and bears no responsibility for their content. Furthermore, Vensure does not endorse the materials present on these websites. The contents of this communication should not be interpreted as legal advice or as a legal standpoint concerning specific facts or scenarios. Nor should it be deemed an exhaustive compilation of facts potentially pertinent to federal, state, or local laws. It is strongly advised that employers solicit legal guidance from an employment attorney when undertaking actions in response to any legal updates provided. This is due to the possibility of future alterations occurring in federal, state, and local laws, regulations, as well as the directives and guidelines issued by governing agencies. These changes may transpire at any given time, potentially rendering certain portions of the content within this update void or inaccurate.

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