Wage Theft Cases Continue to Rise Nationwide
A pair of recent news items–one an article in The New York Times; the other a press release by Governor Cuomo’s office–illustrate the heightened scrutiny being given to wage theft issues–not only in New York, but nationwide. The New York Times piece by Steven Greenhouse asserts that federal and state officials claim that employers are violating wage laws in record numbers, using results of recent enforcement actions as evidence. According to the article, the Federal Department of Labor has uncovered over $1 billion in wages and accompanying fines due to wage law violations.
Additionally, the office of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo released figures for the New York State Department of Labor’s recent wage theft investigations. According to that announcement, in the first six months of 2014, state investigators recovered and disbursed more than $16.4 million in wages, interest and penalties associated with Wage Theft Act cases, representing over 21,000 workers.
At this pace, the New York DOL is on pace for a record recovery year, with this year representing a 16% increase over 2013, and a 35% increase over 2012 at the same benchmark. The DOL stated that it has completed investigations of nearly 5,000 cases between January and June of 2014, and sees no curtailing of these efforts in sight.
These two items illustrate the importance of employers getting on board with a well-structured wage theft compliance program. All such programs should start with proper distribution of wage theft notices where required by law so that the employer has the beginnings of a good faith compliance argument. Additionally, employers need to ensure that all other state and federal notices are presented and signed copies are retained as an essential part of an audit trail, should either the federal or state departments of labor make a visit.