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New York State
Department of Labor

Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor Peter M. Rivera, Commissioner

VIDEO: Labor Department Returns $26.6 Million in Back Wages to Workers in 2010

Second Highest Total in Labor Department History

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Albany, NY (January 03, 2011) -

womens wallet In 2010, the New York State Department of Labor returned $26.6 million in illegally underpaid wages back to workers.  This amount is the second highest ever collected on behalf of workers in the Labor Department’s 110-year history.  

State Labor Commissioner Colleen C. Gardner said, “The current recession has made a bad problem even worse.  The Labor Department will not rest until this crime wave of wage theft is halted in its tracks.  Law-abiding employers and hard working New Yorkers deserve no less.”  

The Division of Labor Standards enforces minimum wage, overtime and other labor laws. In 2010, the division disbursed $18.7 million to 19,000 workers.  The division continued proactive investigations of low-wage industries such as car washes, restaurants and the backstretch at race courses in 2010.  Of note, in October, Commissioner Gardner announced a $1.9 million settlement with the operators of Broadway Bridge Carwash in Upper Manhattan. They failed to pay minimum and overtime wages to employees.  In 2010 -- for the first time -- a thoroughbred racing trainer’s license was revoked for repeatedly ignoring orders to pay backstretch workers at Saratoga Race Course.   

Next year promises even greater returns to workers, thanks in part to the Wage Theft Prevention Act, which takes effect on April 9, 2011. The Act:

  • Enacts more stringent and transparent record-keeping and employee posting requirements.
  • Increases to 100 percent the amount of damages collectable for underpayments found due, over and above the lost wages. This is the highest total allowed under Federal law. Previously it was 25 percent.
  • Creates stronger collection tools.
  • Raises criminal penalties for failure to pay minimum wage to up to a year in prison and a $5,000 fine.
  • Strengthens protections for whistleblowers in cases involving wage violations.

This was also a great year for the Department’s Bureau of Public Work, which collected $7.9 million in wages and interest for 2,650 workers. The bureau enforces the State's prevailing wage law, which regulates the wages paid to employees on public work projects, or projects built by government entities for public purposes. They also work closely with the Department’s Office of Special Investigations to refer public work cases to local district attorneys for criminal prosecution. One such case took place in September 2010. Rockland County District Attorney Thomas P. Zugibe charged Earl Galbreath Jr. with one count of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree for defrauding 66 employees out of $298,000 in unpaid wages and benefits. This criminal indictment is only one of several indictments and convictions the department helped achieve against prevailing wage violators.

Under Article 8 and Article 9 of the New York State Labor Law, enforced by the Bureau of Public Work, there are penalties for breaking the prevailing wage law. A contractor can be debarred from bidding on or being awarded any Public Work contract for five years for:

  • Two willful violations in a six-year period or
  • One violation involving falsification of payroll records or kickbacks

The State Department of Labor encourages employers and workers to contact the department with any questions about labor and/or unemployment insurance laws. We offer information on the department's website at www.labor.ny.gov, or by phone at 1-888-52-LABOR.

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