Your hard work deserves fair compensation. But for many employees in New York City, the unfortunate reality is that you may not be getting the wages that you rightfully deserve.
Wage theft is the most common and costly form of theft in the country, and New York is no different. One analysis found that over a recent five-year period, an estimated 127,000 employees in New York had more than $203 million stolen in wages. Another study found that New York’s Department of Labor still needs to recover 63% of those stolen wages. To make matters worse, these numbers are considered to be a significant undercount.
Wage theft can take many forms, from unpaid overtime to illegal deductions, affecting countless workers across the city. If you’ve experienced wage theft, you are not alone and there is a path to justice. An employment lawyer can help you get the damages you’re owed.
What Is the Law for Wage Theft in New York?
New York state has robust labor laws in place to safeguard employees from wage theft. The New York Wage Theft Prevention Act spells out penalties and punishments for companies that violate the law, with fines of up to $10,000 per employee. When you file a wage theft claim, you get the chance to recover the back wages that your company owes you.
To protect your rights and your paycheck, you should consider the following key points:
- Minimum Wage – New York state has a higher minimum wage than federal law, with rates that apply to salaried, hourly, and tip-based employees. The minimum wage also changes regularly to keep up with inflation and rising living costs. Your employer must pay you the required minimum wage and adjust your pay whenever new minimum wage laws go into effect or they could face wage theft claims.
- Overtime Pay – Non-exempt employees must get overtime pay when they work more than 40 hours in a workweek, at a rate of at least 1.5 times your regular hourly rate.
- Spread of Hours Pay – Non-exempt employees who work more than 10 hours in a workday must get one additional hour of pay (at least minimum wage) for that day.
- Illegal Deductions – Your employer cannot make unauthorized and illegal deductions from your wages, such as for uniforms, cash register shortages, or damaged equipment.
- Meal and Rest Breaks – Depending on the length of your work shifts, your employer must allow you to take a certain amount of paid breaks for meals and rest.
- Record-keeping – Companies must keep accurate records of their employee’s work hours and wages for at least 6 years or they could face serious penalties and fines. They must also take care to document their compliance with rules for tips and commissions.
- Protection from Retaliation – You have the legal right to file a wage theft complaint without fear of your employer retaliating against you by demoting you or firing you.
Understanding your rights is the first step in combating wage theft. If you believe your employer has violated New York’s wage laws, you can take action under the law.
How Do I Report Wage Theft in New York City?
If you suspect you’ve been the target of wage theft, reporting the incident is critical.
- Gather Evidence – Evidence is the most important part of a successful wage theft claim. Keep copies of your pay stubs, timesheets, work schedules, performance reports, and any written communications with your employer about wages.
- Speak to Your Employer – In some cases, wage discrepancies may be the result of a simple administrative error. By bringing up the issue to your employer, you give them a chance to resolve the issue (including paying back pay) without escalating it further.
- Contact the New York State Department of Labor – If your employer is unresponsive or unwilling to address the issue, you can file a complaint with the NYSDOL. You have the option to file complaints online, by mail, or by calling the DOL offices.
- Consider Legal Counsel – If your employer continues to violate your rights or your wage theft issue is too complex, a lawyer can provide legal guidance and support. Sometimes, filing a complaint with the NYSDOL isn’t enough to get you back the money that you’re owed. You may want to consider filing a lawsuit instead.
The process of reporting a wage theft claim can be confusing and daunting, especially if you’re just one worker going up against a large company with your livelihood on the line. By consulting with an employment lawyer from the beginning, you can get guidance on your best path forward.
How Do I File a Complaint Against an Employer in New York?
Filing a formal wage theft complaint against your employer with the New York State Department of Labor typically involves the following steps:
- Completing the NYSDOL Complaint Form – You can initiate a complaint with the Department of Labor by calling their office or going to their website for the necessary forms. Be accurate and thorough in covering the details of your case. Include all relevant information, such as the dates, times, and nature of the wage theft incidents.
- Submitting Supporting Documentation – Your complaint should also include any evidence you’ve collected. The more evidence you have, the stronger your claim will be.
- Cooperating With Investigators – Once you submit your complaint, the NYSDOL will review your case and conduct an investigation. They may ask you to provide additional information or answer questions. Be cooperative and truthful in your responses.
If the NYSDOL determines that wage theft has occurred, the agency will work to try to get your unpaid wages back for you. They may also impose fines and penalties on your employer.
You want to make sure that your complaint and documentation include all of the necessary details. An experienced wage theft lawyer can help you successfully navigate this process.
How Long Can You Claim Unpaid Wages in New York?
Under New York law, the statute of limitations for filing a claim based on minimum wage violations, overtime violations, spread of hours violations, or illegal deductions is 6 years. Depending on the type of claim and the type of retaliation you’ve experienced, you could have as short as only 2 years to file a lawsuit based on retaliation.
It’s critical to act promptly when it comes to getting back your unpaid wages. Wage theft is a serious issue that can have a significant impact on your financial well-being. Many employers who engage in wage theft make a habit of it, affecting your coworkers as well as you.
Your hard work deserves fair compensation. By taking action against wage theft, you not only protect your own best interests but also contribute to a fairer and more just workplace for all. At Mirza Law, we can help you get back the wages you’re owed. Contact us now.