This bill would change the standard for awarding liquidated damages and increase penalties related to the underpayment of wages.
- Underpayment of wages is already a violation of state labor law and carries civil penalties. Currently, the awarding of liquidated damages is properly reserved for those violations that are proven to be willful. That's the purpose of the higher penalty paired with the higher willful standard. Unlike the federal FLSA, current NYS law rightfully places the burden of proof on the plaintiff. Employers should not have to prove their “good faith” to avoid payment of liquidated damages. The burden of proof is properly placed under current state law. The standard should not be changed.
- Section 215 currently allows civil penalties of from $200 to $2,000. This bill proposes that they be raised to $1,000 to $10,000 and allow for back pay awards. The sponsors state that the current penalties limit the Commissioner's remedies. This would be true for any finite penalty limit stated in this section. There is no information provided that indicates that the current civil penalties result in ineffective enforcement. No data is provided to demonstrate that the new recommended penalty levels would bring about the desirable results mentioned in the sponsor's Statement In Support of this bill.
The Business Council opposes this legislation and respectfully requests that it not be enacted by the New York State Legislature.