By: Amy Traub
Nearly a billion dollars were stolen in New York City last year, and the thieves aren't even worried about getting caught. If this were an epidemic of street crime, the city and state would have acted long ago.
Instead, the crooks in question are corrupt bosses who steal their employees' earnings by paying less than minimum wage, making them work off the clock, pilfering tips, misclassifying employees as independent contractors, and a host of other schemes. As a result, the theft is harder to detect. But Albany is finally on the case. The Wage Theft Prevention Act, introduced this week by Senator Diane Savino and Assemblyman Carl Heastie, stiffens penalties for cheating employees out of wages, encourages workers to come forward, and provides new avenues for investigating and prosecuting wage theft cases - and ensuring violators will pay up. The bill builds on the best practices of states like Ohio and New Mexico to not only punish wage-stealing employers but create a powerful deterrent to cheating employees - and the public - in the first place.
The bill is particularly urgent in a time of budget deficits and recession. New York loses hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue when, in the process of stealing wages from their workers, employers also underpay payroll taxes, unemployment insurance, and workers' compensation. Cornell University researchers estimate that between 2002 and 2005 the state lost more than $175 million just from unemployment insurance taxes on employees whose bosses wrongly classified them as independent contractors...
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