How to Report Wage Theft in New York

Wage theft is unfortunately a common occurrence in New York and can be experienced in many different types of occupation.

Discrepancies in what you should be paid and what you are actually paid may be just a simple administrative error or a deliberate attempt to pay you less than you are entitled to.

There are many different forms of wage theft, but the most common are paying less than the minimum state wage and not paying overtime.

Not paying the minimum wage is often disguised by charging for uniform, not paying for working through statutory meal breaks and other unlawful practices.

Wage theft is illegal in New York State and if you have proof that you have experienced wage theft, you may be able to file a wage theft claim with the state agency that deals with labor laws or file a lawsuit if the amount of wage theft is particularly high.

Many employees who have experienced wage theft at their place of employment find it useful to contact an employment law attorney before taking legal action.  

What Are the Wage Theft Laws In NYC?  

Wage theft is illegal in New York City, but is still, unfortunately, common. The most common forms of wage theft in NYC are not paying the minimum wage and not paying overtime rates.  The minimum wage in NYC is currently $15. Overtime rates must be paid for any work done over 40 hours in a 7 day period.

Wage theft is investigated by the New York Department of Labor (DOL), a state agency that enforces the state’s wage theft legislation. This legislation is the Wage Theft Protection Act (WPTA), which came into effect in 2011. Employers must provide all new employees with information about their employment rights, such as the hourly wage rate, overtime rates (1.5 times the hourly wage), what days are paydays, how wages are paid, e.g. by the day, week or month, any additional benefits provided, such as uniform or accommodation, the name of the employer, its address and phone number, address of the parent company, if any.

If you believe that you have experienced wage theft and have made enquiries with your employer with no success, you can file a wage theft claim with a state office of the Department of Labor (DOL). The DOL will investigate your complaint o determine whether any breach of the WPTA has been made. Employers who are in breach of the WPTA may face penalties and may be requested to pay back pay and other compensation. If the DOL cannot resolve your complaint, you may be able to sue your employer through the civil court. 

What is the New York Wage Theft Prevention Act?  

The New York Wage Theft Prevention Act (WTPA) was signed into law in 2011, with amendments coming into effect in 2015. It is an attempt to ensure employers let new employees know about their wage rates and other conditions of employment. A breach of the WTPA could land the employer in trouble as there are penalties imposed if evidence shows that the employer ignored the provisions of the Act.

The WTPA requires employers to provide new employees with the following written details about their job:

  • what the regular hourly rate of pay is;
  • how the pay is made: by the hour, day, week or month;
  • when payday is;
  • what the overtime rates are;
  • are tips and other extras like accommodation and meals considered part of the wage;
  • the name of the employer,
  • what the address and phone number are of the parent company;
  • the official business name and whether the business has any other names it uses;
  • the phone number and address of the business.

New employees must be able to obtain a copy of this notification within 10 days of when they first start working. It must also be in another language other than English if the new employee’s native language is not English. The state’s Department of Labor provides copies of the notification which employers can use in Chinese, Russian, Haitian Creole, Spanish, Korean and Polish.

There are penalties for breaching the WTPA which can be imposed on employers. Typically, the Department of Labor requires employers to pay the difference in wages plus back pay if found to have breached the Act. If you go on to file a lawsuit against the employer, then penalties could be a lot higher.

What You Need to Know Before You File a Wage Theft Claim

Both federal and state laws determine the minimum wage that must be paid to all except a small number of employees. In New York, the state minimum wage of $11.80 an hour is higher than the federal minimum wage of $7.20 an hour.

In this case, it is the state minimum that must be paid by all employers in New York State.

The other common form of wage theft is failure to pay overtime pay. Overtime is any work that is done over and above 40 hours in any working week of seven days. The overtime rate of pay in New York is one and a half the normal hourly wage.

There are other employment laws concerning wage theft. These include paying for accrued sick and vacation time if it is part of an employment contract, not deducting tips from wages and paying for any time an employee works through a statutory meal break.

How to Report Wage Theft

If you believe that you have not been paid what you should have been paid, you can file a wage claim form online with the New York State Department of Labor (DOL).

The DOL will investigate your complaint and if it is upheld, will make your employer pay you any unpaid wages that you are owed.

Alternatively, unless the amount is quite small, you can file a lawsuit through the civil court. If successful, you should be paid back the amount owed plus attorney’s fees and court costs.

Note that there is a statute of limitations which limits the time in which you should submit a wage claim, but as this is six years from the date of the wage theft occurring, you should aim to file your claim as soon as you can.

New York Wage Theft Lawyer

A wage theft attorney that takes cases in New York can help you get compensation for your missed wages. Compensation can be sought if you have suffered any form of wage theft while employed. Wage theft includes:

  • being paid below the state or federal minimum wage;
  • not being paid overtime rates if you have worked more than 40 hours in a week;
  • not being paid after termination of your employment for wages due to you;
  • not being paid for permitted family or medical leave days taken. 

The wage theft attorney can first arrange an initial consultation to hear your complaint of wage theft. It is best to bring with you what evidence you have to support your claim such as any employment contract, wage stubs, correspondence you have already had with your Pr department or employer.

The attorney will be able to assess whether you have grounds for a claim based on violation of state and /or federal employment legislation.

The attorney may ask you to seek more evidence to help you support your claim when it is filed and make helpful suggestions about what sort of evidence could enhance your chances of a successful claim.

The attorney may help settle the claim out of court by negotiating with the employer, but if this does not lead to a satisfactory settlement, may advise going to court to file a lawsuit against the employer.

The attorney will represent you in any court appearances. Compensation sought may include back pay, an amount for loss and suffering caused by the stress experienced as well as punitive damages in extreme cases.

Fill Out a Free Evaluation Form

If you think you have been subject to wage theft by your employer, you should fill out the free evaluation form available below.

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