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Know Your Rights
Source: New York State Department of Labor
Subject: Workplace Justice
Type: Media Coverage

Labor Department Announces New Proactive Approach to Enforcement

(12/19/2007; 1326) Labor Department Commissioner M. Patricia Smith today
announced a major proactive approach to enforcing the state’s labor laws in
various industries, beginning in New
York City. This new enforcement effort will partner
with advocacy and community groups and unions to gather information necessary
to conduct wage and hour investigations. This effort is part of Governor
Spitzer’s emphasis on increased labor law enforcement for low wage workers.

Working on information
from a nonprofit organization, Make the Road New York (MTRNY), and from the
Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), Labor Department
investigators walked a mile-long strip of Knickerbocker Avenue and inspected 26
businesses, during daytimes and evenings. They found that at least 19 of the 26
business had committed labor law infractions, including wage and hour and
recordkeeping violations. Seven businesses remain under review.

"This new initiative
is about targeting industries that do not play by the rules, and partnering
with local groups to get the vital message out that we will protect all
workers," said Commissioner Smith. "With the valuable information our community
partners provide and our dedicated wage enforcement investigators, we will take
action against employers who cheat their employees and return back wages to workers."

Preliminary findings
reveal that in some cases, workers were paid as little as $5 per hour, with
underpayments totaling $200 per week. Several stores paid weekly rates in the
$300 to $400 range, for workweeks of 60 to 72 hours per week. The state minimum
wage is $7.15 per hour, and employers are required to pay overtime for weekly
hours past forty at 1½ the employee’s regular pay rate. Many employers also
failed to keep payroll and time records.

from Make the Road New York said, "Today, we are sending a message to workers
that you have rights in the workplace and that you are not alone. Workers
cannot protect rights they do not know they have. And they cannot protect their
rights if they are afraid. Innovative collaborations between the community
groups like MTRNY and DOL are needed to make labor law mean something again to
retail workers along Knickerbocker
Avenue and around the city."

Jeff Eichler of the
Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union said,"I think this is absolutely wonderful
and important. By partnering with RWDSU and community groups, we can make real
changes for the retail workers who work in our neighborhoods."

The following were
among the businesses inspected:

Car Wash — two corporations: George Auto Spa Corp. and Roger Street Inc.,
failed to pay minimum wage and overtime and to keep records of hours worked.
The businesses owe $97,979.90 and $1,419.90 in minimum wage and overtime wages
to nine employees.

Girl — The store failed to pay minimum wage and overtime, and to keep adequate
records; the business owes $40,679.05.

Top, Marco, Galaxy Beauty Supply, So Sweet, and Casa Moda Shoes, among others,
were issued violations for failure to maintain required payroll records.

Several stores were
also referred to the Workers’ Compensation Board based on failure to carry
adequate coverage.

In addition to stores
in Bushwick, Labor Department investigators also proactively inspected nearly
80 other retail establishments statewide, from Buffalo
to Long Island, during the first two weeks of
December. Preliminary results are not yet available, but investigators reported
a range of results, including some overtime and child labor violations.

The Labor Department’s
Division of Labor Standards works to enforce the labor laws of the state. When
the Division of Labor Standards receives a complaint, it conducts an
investigation to determine if the employees are receiving the proper
compensation. The division has investigators, many of whom are bilingual, at
locations around the state to monitor compliance. If they determine that
employees are not being paid correctly, they will impose penalties against the
employer and order payment of back wages and supplements.

The State Labor
Department’s investigators will answer any questions employers or workers may
have regarding compliance with New
York’s labor laws. Information also is posted on the
department’s web site or by
phone at: 1-800-447-3992.