Employers accused of stealing wages from workers could be charged with felony larceny under a measure that is heading to Gov. Kathy Hochul's desk.
The measure, backed by labor unions and given final approval this week in the state Assembly, is meant to address instances where workers are defrauded of their paychecks by boosting penalties.
Liability would also be expanded to cover wages of less than $1,000 and supporters contend prosecutors would have an easier time of finding repeat offenders.
Business organizations in New York, generally, have raised concerns with efforts to address wage theft, pointing to federal laws already on the books as well as the potential burden the measures could place on employers.
"Wage Theft is a form of worker exploitation that oftentimes impacts our most vulnerable populations including immigrants and low-income workers,” said state Sen. Neil Breslin. “This critically important pro-worker legislation will allow prosecutors to seek stronger penalties from employers who engage in wage theft."
The measure had the backing of the labor groups in New York, as well as state Attorney General Letitia James. If approved, the changes would be put into immediate effect.
“While wage theft is rampant in my district, impacting the most vulnerable in our community, it is a statewide pandemic that robs the state as much as it robs the workers," said Assemblymember Catalina Cruz. "By criminalizing wage theft as a felony, we are creating substantial penalties that send a clear message that stealing from workers will not be tolerated in the state of New York."