June 19, 2019

Assembly Passes Legislation to Help Workers Recover Stolen Wages

Speaker Carl Heastie and Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal today announced the Assembly has the passed the Securing Wages Earned Against Theft (SWEAT) bill to help employees recoup stolen wages from their employers. This legislation would enable victims to collect their stolen wages by closing loopholes in state law that allow employers to avoid their obligation by hiding or transferring wealth (A.486-B, Rosenthal).

"The Assembly Majority has fought hard to raise the minimum wage for New Yorkers and protect working families," said Speaker Heastie. "Unfortunately, not all employers value their workers or follow the law. This legislation will put in place legal mechanisms to ensure that victims of wage theft are able to recover stolen wages from unscrupulous employers."

"New Yorkers are owed $1 billion in stolen wages, but sadly, wage theft judgments are worth little more than the paper they are written on," said Assemblymember Rosenthal. "Those dollars in unpaid wage theft judgments represent more than justice left unserved, it is months of rent, groceries and new school shoes for the daughter or son who has just experienced a growth spurt. With minimum wage workers, those living paycheck to paycheck, a week's pay often means the difference between paying rent and putting food on the table. This bill will help ensure that hardworking New Yorkers who win a wage theft judgment can actually collect the wages they worked hard to earn."

The SWEAT bill would create an "employee's lien" for all workers, expanding on the existing mechanic's lien provisions that provide lien remedies for home improvement workers. This would enable victims of wage them to put a temporary lien on the property of an employer that fails to pay wages. The legislation would also make it easier for victims of wage theft to seek attachment of the employers' assets during the pending court action, before property or assets can be sold or transferred.

In 2018, $35 million was returned to more than 35,000 victims of wage theft in New York State. Since 2011, the state has recovered and returned more than $285 million in stolen wages to more than 250,000 workers.