Assemblyman Santabarbara: New Bill Will Strengthen Penalties Against Those Who Steal Wages

Wage theft still a major issue for low-income workers

Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara announced he has co-sponsored a bill adding wage theft to the types of activities included in the crime of larceny, which would allow prosecutors to seek stronger penalties against employers who steal wages (A.2022).

“Wage theft is a violation of employees’ rights, and those who perpetrate this form of worker exploitation are often taking advantage of some of our communities’ most vulnerable members,” said Santabarbara. “It’s criminal that some families may be facing wage theft even as they are already struggling through the economic hardship. This bill will ensure employers who engage in wage theft are held accountable. I’ll continue fighting for measures that keep more money in the pockets of hardworking New York families.”

Though wage theft is thought to solely affect low-income workers who are cheated through subminimum wage or unpaid overtime schemes, it is actually far more pervasive, particularly within the construction industry in New York. According to Cornell University’s Worker Institute, wage theft in New York accounts for nearly $1 billion in lost wages each year – nearly $20 million per week – and affects tens of thousands of workers. Furthermore, by committing wage theft and associated frauds, companies unfairly lower their costs, making it more difficult for law-abiding businesses to compete.

“It’s clear more must be done to protect workers from unscrupulous employers,” said Assemblyman Santabarbara. “When an employer steals wages from various employees on an ongoing basis, their intent is to steal from their workforce rather than steal from any individual worker. This bill would amend the state’s laws regarding the crime of larceny, clarifying in the penal law that wages are property, and allowing for an aggregation of victims into a workforce in larceny cases where the property is stolen wages (A.2022). This would allow prosecutors to combine multiple wage theft cases into a single larger larceny case and seek higher penalties for those that steal from their workers,” added Santabarbara.