On January 24, 2019, Governor Cuomo’s office issued a press release announcing a new proposal to be included in the 2020 Executive Budget aimed at cracking down on wage theft and bolstering the State’s efforts to hold accountable employers who attempt to improperly withhold wages. This proposal would increase the criminal penalties for employers who either knowingly or intentionally commit wage theft violations to bring them in line with other forms of theft.
Presently, only employers who commit repeated wage theft can be prosecuted with a felony. The proposed legislation will amend the New York Labor Law to provide for criminal penalties for employers who knowingly steal wages, with criminal penalties ranging from a Class B misdemeanor for wage theft less than $1,000 to a Class B felony for wage theft exceeding $50,000. Notable effects of the proposal will be the enhancement of the New York State Department of Labor’s ability to make referrals for criminal prosecution to District Attorneys and the Attorney General, as well as the increased likelihood that wage theft violations will be prosecuted as crimes. In addition, the enhanced penalties may deter employers and thus reduce future occurrences of wage theft.