Cuomo announces launch of minimum wage enforcement unit

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday the launch of a 200-member multi-agency Minimum Wage Enforcement and Outreach Unit charged with ensuring that all minimum wage workers are paid the proper rate.

The Enforcement and Outreach Unit, a first-of-its-kind in the nation, will also help businesses understand their responsibilities and workers understand their rights under the new wage regulations.

Earlier this year, Gov. Cuomo signed legislation making New York the first state in the nation to enact a $15 minimum wage. On Dec. 31, 2016, the first benchmark of the phase-in schedule for the minimum wage increase went into effect.

“If you have been making the minimum wage, you have been stagnant in the minimum wage for many years and if you’re stagnant, you’re actually going backwards, right?” Cuomo explained during a news conference on Monday. “Because the cost of living is going up and you’re staying at the exact same place.”

The Unit will include specially trained staff from a number of state agencies, including the Department of Labor, Department of Taxation, Workers Compensation Board and the Department of State.

Trained staff will educate both workers and businesses on specific requirements included under the new minimum wage rates.

The enforcement is led by the New York State Department of Labor.

Employers are subject to a fine of $3 for every hour that they fail to pay the proper minimum wage to an employee.

The business owner will also have to pay back wages plus any other damages the investigator deems necessary depending on the magnitude of each case, according to Governor’s office. This amount is designated as “liquidated damages.”

Along with civil penalties to be paid in every case, the business owner will also be subject to a full audit by the Department of Labor looking into the wages they pay to each of their employees.

“A lot of workers don’t know that they just got a raise and they need to know this because they need to make sure it is in their paycheck,” Cuomo said.

Every worker complaint that is reported to the state will be investigated by the Enforcement and Outreach Unit. 

The Unit urges any worker who has not been paid the proper wages, or anyone concerned that they are not receiving fair pay, to contact the Minimum Wage Hotline at 1-(888) 469-7365 or visit ny.gov/mywage.

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