Co-authored by Lorie Almon and Maayan Deker

On April 9, 2011, amendments to New York Labor Laws take effect.  These amendments are effectuated as part of the new Wage Theft Prevention Act.  The amendments to the Labor Laws increase employee protections and institute harsher penalties for non-compliant employers.

The new regulations require employers to provide notice to employees (both in English and in the employee’s identified primary language) information related to the employee’s employment.  Employees are then required to sign a written acknowledgement (again both in English and in the employee’s identified primary language) confirming receipt of such notice.  The Commissioner of Labor is tasked with creating model language-based templates for employer use.  If the Commissioner does not provide a template for a specific language, employers are simply required to provide notice in English.

The regulations also require that employers include specific information on wage statements including the rate and basis of pay, the dates covering each specific pay period, and allowances.  Employers are also required to retain payroll records for a period of at least six years.  These payroll records must include information pertaining to the rate and basis of pay, gross wages, deductions, allowances, and net wages.

The Wage Theft Prevention Act incorporates a number of increased monetary and criminal penalties for violations of wage payments.  The Act also expands the authority of the Commissioner of Labor.  Significantly, the law now provides for liquidated damages up to 100% of the total amount of wages due for underpayment of wages unless an employer has a good faith basis for believing underpayment of wages complies with the law.  The Act also incorporates criminal and monetary penalties for violations of wage payments, additional remedies for employer retaliation, criminal penalties for officers and agents of corporations and partnerships who knowingly permit wage payment violations to occur, posting notices for employer violations of labor laws, and an accounting of assets instituted by the Commissioner of Labor for non-compliance with a Commissioner order.

For further information regarding the Wage Theft Prevention Act, please view Seyfarth Shaw’s recent One Minute Memo on the topic.