On December 13, 2010, Governor David Paterson signed the Wage Theft Protection Act into law. The law, which goes into effect on April 12, 2011, strengthens the penalties available under New York labor law for employers who illegally withhold employees’ pay or otherwise violate the minimum wage or overtime requirements. Under the new law, restaurants and other employers may be found to be liable not only for the unpaid wages for their workers, but also for an equal amount in liquidated damages. This double damages penalty is a significant increase from the prior law, which gave workers the right to liquidated damages of 25% of wages owed. The Wage Theft Prevention Act also permits the Commissioner of Labor to obtain liquidated damages of up to $10,000 in the event an employer retaliates against a worker who complains of a violation of the wage laws.
This new law provides important additional rights for restaurant workers whose employers violate the law or engage in retaliatory conduct.