This fifteen page bill, the Wage Theft Protection Act, would expand many current and longstanding employer obligations under the state's labor law and add new penalties for employers. The Business Council opposes enactment of this proposal.
- These expansions are proposed for no apparent reason other than “Studies indicate …a large number of employees are earning less than minimum wage…” and “…not all receiving the appropriate amount of overtime compensation” and “…employers are also failing to provide basic necessities such as, days of rest and meal period breaks…” Nothing in the bill or memo details the inadequacy of the current and longstanding employee protections of these provisions in the state's labor law.
- Work in New York and other states has gradually shifted to a service and high tech economy. Many of the longstanding employer obligations and the expansions proposed in this bill are geared to an industrial model that is no longer representative of the workplace. Employees are much more aware of workplace rights, assert them and are not in need of an overreaching state government apparatus.
- The requirement to provide extensive notices and records in the "primary language of the employee" adds a multi-lingual burden upon NYS employers that is unfair, unwarranted and unprecedented. Employees already have non-discrimination protections, but adding this additional language obligation to an employer's paperwork burdens is reminiscent of "no good deed goes unpunished.” Employers providing genuine equal employment opportunity are greeted with the need to obtain translators and keep multi-lingual records, with any miscue being a "cause of action". Employers who miss the short ten (10) day period to provide a bond pending appeal from an adverse administrative determination then are subjected to severe sanctions, including accountings and civil penalties of up to $10,000. In the administrative proceedings, civil penalties of $500 for each failure of compliance regarding rate of pay or differentiation in pay because of sex are imposed and there are "liquidated damages" for underpayments, too. Mistakes in notices or record keeping regarding rates of pay or overtime are punished by acceptance of anecdotal employee testimony and the employer has a heightened burden of providing "specific, detailed, and credible rebuttal evidence". Experienced practitioners know that such a system foments self-serving testimony by opportunistic employees and their contingent fee counsel.
- Statewide, New York needs 500,000 new jobs just to return to pre-recession employment levels. Those jobs will come only when employers decide it is worth expanding and creating new jobs in New York State. This bill would compound the difficulty of doing business in NYS by creating an unnecessary and burdensome paperwork and penalty regime. At a time when our state economy is struggling, the imposition, particularly on small and medium sized businesses, is vastly disproportioned to any genuine or valid concern for proper pay and compliance with the state labor law requirements.
- It makes no sense that the state legislature is moving forward with this burdensome new proposal with its new obligations on the very same businesses they are turning to for those new jobs.
For these reasons, The Business Council opposes this legislation and strongly urges that it not be enacted by the New York State Legislature.