To celebrate Labor Day, Governor Kathy Hochul signed a series of bills on September 7 to strengthen protections for workers in New York. Below, we discuss these new developments.
Wage Theft as Criminal Larceny
The first bill, Senate Bill S2832A, amends the Penal Code to include wage theft as a means of committing criminal larceny. The new law now includes a definition of larceny by wage theft: "A person obtains property by wage theft when he or she hires a person to perform services and the person performs such services and the person does not pay wages, at the minimum wage rate and overtime, or promised wage, if greater than the minimum wage rate and overtime, to said person for work performed." "Property" is also now redefined to include "compensation for labor or services."
In February 2023, the Manhattan district attorney created a Worker Protection Unit to emphasize the investigation and prosecution of wage theft in the state. While pre-existing wage theft laws remain on the books, this new amendment provides another avenue through which prosecutors may try to make good on the district attorney's goals.
As always, employers should remain vigilant when it comes to ensuring that employees are paid the proper wages or risk the prospect of prison time.
Increases to Workers' Compensation
S1161/A2034, signed into law by Governor Hochul, increases the minimum weekly permanent partial disability and temporary partial disability to $275 in 2024, up from the current amount of $150. This amount increases to $325 in 2025 and, beginning in 2026, will thereafter be indexed to equal one-fifth of the state's average weekly wage. If an employee earns less than these amounts, the employee shall receive their full wages.
Banning "Captive Audience" Meetings
Governor Hochul has signed a bill that has effectively banned "captive audience" meetings. For a more detailed discussion of what this law means and what employers should do, please review the alert we previously issued on this.
We will continue to watch for developments in these areas. If your organization has any questions about New York's new protections for employees or any other employment-related issues, please contact Venable's Labor and Employment Group.