Employers that fail to pay wages to workers are often held responsible for violations of state and federal labor laws through private lawsuits in state or federal court. In addition to this private right of action under the state and federal labor laws, a recent amendment to the NY Penal Law now allows for prosecutors throughout the state to file criminal charges when a worker or workforce is not compensated for work performed.
On September 6, 2023, New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed NY Senate Bill A2832A, which amended the state larceny statute to include wage theft, thus making failure to properly pay wages a form of criminal larceny. Specifically, the bill amends the definition of “property” and adds “wage theft” as a form of larceny. This amendment took effect immediately.
According to NY Penal Law § 155.05(1), “[a] person steals property and commits larceny when, with intent to deprive another of property or to appropriate the same to himself or to a third person, he wrongfully takes, obtains or withholds such property from an owner thereof.” The new law amends the definition of “property” to include “compensation for labor or services.”
Further, the revised law adds “wage theft” as a codified means of larceny. Specifically, the penal law now describes the crime of larceny by wage theft: “A person obtains property by wage theft when he or she hires a person to perform services and the person performs such services and the person does not pay wages, at the minimum wage rate and overtime, or promised wage, if greater than the minimum wage rate and overtime, to said person for work performed.”
This amendment is intended to supplement Section 198-a of the New York Labor Law, which outlined criminal penalties that may be imposed on employers (and their officers) where certain labor law provisions are violated.
Employers throughout the state of New York should take care to ensure that they are properly and timely paying their workers. This amendment is likely to apply to all workers, regardless of their status as an employee. Therefore, it is essential that employers, specifically employers that employ independent contractors and utilize other short-term employment methods, maintain accurate and detailed records of payment for all time worked. Employers should also review their internal policies regarding timekeeping and payment of wages to ensure they are compliant with the New York Labor Law to avoid prosecution under the newly amended larceny statute.
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This Legal Briefing is intended for general informational and educational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice or counsel. The substance of this Legal Briefing is not intended to cover all legal issues or developments regarding the matter. Please consult with an attorney to ascertain how these new developments may relate to you or your business. © 2023 Law Offices of Pullano & Farrow PLLC