New York employers beware: Governor Hochul has announced that the State will be making it a lot easier for employees to lodge complaints regarding wage violations and workplace sexual harassment and will be ramping up enforcement, including potential criminal penalties.
Wage Violation Enforcement
New York’s Wage Theft Task Force (“Task Force”) – a coordinated effort between the New York State Department of Labor, the New York State Attorney General, the New York State Insurance Fund, the Offices of District Attorneys across the State, and the New York City Department of Investigation – has recently expanded to target employers in all industries for violations of the New York Labor Law and Wage Theft Prevention Act (“Wage Laws”).
Workers can now report alleged violations of the Wage Laws directly to the New York State Department of Labor via a hotline, and the Task Force is also developing an online system to facilitate reports. Further, the Task Force is ramping up enforcement against business owners who have allegedly failed to pay their employees properly by bringing criminal charges for violations of the Wage Laws. In that regard, the Task Force has recently secured multiple felony convictions against delinquent business owners.
Sexual Harassment Complaints
Governor Hochul has also announced the launch of a state-wide, toll-free, confidential hotline to report and receive counseling on complaints of workplace sexual harassment. Employees who call the hotline will speak with an attorney with the New York State Division of Human Rights who will provide the caller with information about how to file a sexual harassment complaint and connect the caller with an attorney upon request.
Further, employers must now include information about the sexual harassment hotline in materials employers provide to employees regarding sexual harassment. Accordingly, employers’ anti-harassment policies must be updated to provide the hotline information.
Given this new focus on enforcement, employers would be wise to take this opportunity to review their wage/hour and anti-harassment policies.
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If you have questions or would like additional information, please contact our Labor & Employment attorneys or the primary EGS attorney with whom you work.