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These 3 New Laws Could Help Tackle Wage Theft

A new legislative package would give state agencies the power to shut down businesses that steal wages until they pay workers what they are owed.


Senate labor chair Jessica Ramos is spearheading the effort to tackle wage theft.

New York is stepping up its war on wage theft with the introduction of three bills aimed at curbing the pervasive issue. Spearheaded by Senate Labor Chair Jessica Ramos and co-sponsored by Assemblymembers Kenny Burgos, Harvey Epstein, and Linda Rosenthal, the new laws would give state agencies powerful new tools to punish businesses that fail to pay their workers fairly. The initiative, dubbed the Wage Theft Deterrence Package, was spurred by recent reports that the New York State Department of Labor has been unable to recover tens of millions in unpaid wages. If passed, the legislation would be a huge step forward in the fight against an injustice affecting hundreds of thousands across the state.

Targeting Hospitality's Bad Apples

First up, bill S8451 takes aim at the hospitality industry's notorious wage theft issues, empowering the State Liquor Authority to revoke liquor licenses from any bar or restaurant that owes workers over $1,000. It’s a proven tactic, modeled after similar programs, like a successful law in California's Santa Clara County that has reclaimed hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid wages for workers.

The new laws would give state agencies powerful new tools to punish businesses that fail to pay their workers fairly.

Issuing Stop Work Orders

Bill S8452 gives state agencies the power to issue stop work orders to any business facing wage theft claims over $1,000. This would mean, when an unscrupulous non-union contractor declines to fairly pay workers, the commissioner of labor could step in and shut down their operation. This strategy has already proven its effectiveness in New Jersey, which temporarily shut down 27 Boston Markets and reclaimed over $630,000 owed to workers. By putting non-compliant businesses on ice, New York is aiming to force a fast resolution to unpaid wage disputes.


A new bill will allow stop work orders to be issued at any job site where the contractor faces wage theft claims of more than $1,000.

Shutting Down the Offenders

The third piece of legislation, bill S8453, threatens businesses who steal wages with the suspension of their Certificate of Authority—necessary for operating legally and collecting sales tax. This bill sends a clear message: play fair or pay the price.

All three bills include a 15-day grace period for employers, allowing them to settle up their wage theft claims within 15 days to avoid punitive measures.

Wage theft strips over $1 billion each year from hardworking New Yorkers. This legislative push, supported by a coalition of worker advocates, policy makers, and academic experts, could be a game changer. Jame’s Parrot of the New School’s Center for New York City Affairs praised the package, saying it would “put more teeth into New York’s enforcement efforts.” Assemblymember Rosenthal echoes this sentiment, arguing that if businesses refuse to do right by their workers, it's only fitting that the state holds them accountable. With these measures, New York is taking a bold step to ensure that hard-earned wages end up where they truly belong: in the hands of the workers.


Mark Colangelo is a writer and blogger.

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