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Know Your Rights
Source: Make the Road New York
Subject: Workplace Justice
Type: Media Coverage

Make the Road New York Works to Halt Wage Theft

Make the Road New York (MRNY) is making great strides to stop wage theft and protect the rights of low-income, immigrant workers. Our frontline advocacy wins hundreds of thousands of dollars in illegally withheld wages and damages for exploited workers and our innovative policy work promises to make improvements for workers throughout New York City and State.

Wage theft is rampant in the United States. In a 2008 study, 68 percent of low-income workers reported wage theft. Without adequate protection for employees, many employers in low-wage industries regularly pay less than the minimum wage, fail to pay overtime and retaliate against workers who stand up for themselves.

Last month, MRNY worked with our coalition partners to draft and introduce the Wage Theft Prevention Act, a comprehensive piece of State legislation that will severely penalize employers who violate the law. Read more in the New York Times and the Associated Press. Our bill has garnered significant enthusiasm in Albany and has already been supported by the editorial board of the New York Daily News.

So far this year, MRNY has helped workers win tens of thousands of dollars in back wages. For families struggling to survive in New York City, this has meant the difference between putting food on the table and going hungry:

  • MRNY settled a case for two former waiters at a famous Italian restaurant in Brooklyn, winning nearly $200,000 for the workers who for many years were paid as little as $1 per hour with no overtime.
  • MRNY helped four laborers bring a suit against multimillionaire Jocelyne Wildenstein and win $13,000 in back wages after she failed to pay for their work renovating her Trump Tower apartments.
  • MRNY won $20,000 for Manuel and Angel, who worked several years in the kitchen of 17 Murray, a bustling restaurant near City Hall for over 70 hours a week with no overtime.
  • MRNY helped Veronica bring her pregnancy discrimination case against her former employer and achieved a settlement of $15,000 in damages.

Every year, MRNY takes hundreds of "small" cases like these that would otherwise go unrepresented. Our intervention makes the difference, winning back stolen wages and benefits for low-income, immigrant New Yorkers. Coupled with our civic engagement and policy work, MRNY is creating accountability for lawless employers and ensuring that a hard day’s work earns a hard day’s pay for everyone in New York State.