In the past six months, WJCNY and our clients succeeded in recovering hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid wages, penalties for various labor standards violations, and attorneys’ fees for WJCNY’s legal representation. These cases span a vast geography—from the suburbs of New York City to rural areas of Western New York—and across an array of industries including construction, food preparation, large-scale crop farming and dairy businesses. WJCNY commenced litigation, on behalf our courageous clients, in federal and state courts, as well filing complaints with administrative agencies, to pursue relief for wage theft under the Fair Labor Standards Act and New York Labor Law, and illegal retaliation against workers in in violation of the National Labor Relations Act. The successful resolution of these cases not only provides monetary compensation to directly affected workers but also serves to deter future labor abuses by these employers, thereby benefiting hundreds of low-wage workers.
The widespread failure of employers to pay workers the wages they have earned harms New York families and the public. It deepens poverty, reduces state and local revenue, increases the use of public assistance and disadvantages local business owners who play by the rules. Despite the severity of the wage theft epidemic, governmental resources for the enforcement of labor standards are grossly insufficient and only a small fraction of unpaid wages are recovered by federal and state agencies combined. Moreover, the incidence of wage theft is greatest among recent immigrants who are often unlikely to engage with governmental offices, especially when linguistic and cultural barriers exist. Currently, no other non-profit legal service provider in New York maintains an anti-wage theft program across the entirety of upstate New York. WJCNY’s role in enforcing labor standards for low-wage workers is critical to securing dignified treatment of all New York workers and combating the negative consequences of labor violations for all communities.