Wage Theft Prevention Act
Kevin Martin, Extension Educator, Business Management
Lake Erie Regional Grape Program
March 13, 2013
New York State recently passed the Wage Theft Prevention Act. This law is similar to new requirements in Massachusetts, and Illinois. In the past record keeping requirements were similar to Pennsylvania. Employers have to document standard payroll data such as hourly rate, hours worked, and ensure piece rate employees were making at least minimum wage. These requirements are in addition to the new hire notices that went into effect on October 26, 2009. This law takes effect in April 2010.
Simply handing cash or even checks to someone may seem adequate. However, failure to follow the letter of the law may lead to liability for the legal definition of wage theft. Inadequate record keeping may leave your business vulnerable to fraudulent claims of wage theft.
Allegations of wage theft for grape farmers often arise because of the culture surrounding hand pruning. A bilingual worker with legal status manages the crew and may take payments directly for contractual work completed. This â��crew-leaderâ�� may then make payments to other pruners. While this is common practice in other industries, it is specifically banned in agriculture by federal law. Crew leaders must be registered and there are essentially no registered crew leaders. This puts the responsibility on the grower to pay employees directly without an intermediary. Many growers continue to allow a leader to manage the group but generally pay employees directly. Without allowing a pseudo-leader it can be challenging to find labor. By allowing such a leader, but still paying employees directly, it can be challenging to comply with all labor law requirements because of the lack of communication and contact you have with your employees.
The Wage Theft Prevention Act increases record keeping requirements. Employers must provide the following information in the Employeeâ��s primary language:
- Rate of pay
- Allowances such as meals or lodging
- Regular pay day
- Name of Employer
- Any â��doing business asâ�� names
- Physical address of Employerâ��s office
- Telephone number
- Dates of work
- Rate of work
- Gross Wages
- Net Wages
Additional penalties of wage theft include $50 per workweek for not providing the information above. In addition, employers will have tort liability to employees of $100 per workweek, up to $2,500 and attorney fees.
The NYS Department of Labor is charged with publishing a bilingual form to assist employers in meeting these requirements. Many of these are available at: http://www.labor.state.ny.us/workerprotection/wp_forms_documents.shtm.
Explanation Of The Law (pdf; 279KB)
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