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State launches special unit to enforce minimum wage increases, educate workers and employers

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A special enforcement and outreach unit has been launched in New York to ensure compliance with the state’s minimum wage law, which rose to $10 per hour for most workers on Long Island Dec. 31.

Legislation signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo last year phases in a $15 minimum wage across the state over a five-year period.

The increase in minimum wage will impact 2.3 million New Yorkers – about a quarter of the total workforce — including more than 350,000 workers on Long Island, according to the governor’s office.

“With the first increase in the minimum wage now in effect, this new enforcement unit will ensure that workers are being paid what they earned, and employers who flaunt the law will be held accountable,” Cuomo said in a press release announcing the enforcement and outreach unit. “I urge any minimum wage worker who does not receive their increase to call the Department of Labor Hotline (1-888-4-NYSDOL) to ensure they receive a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work.”

The state also launched a web tool to help people determine what the minimum wage is — the wage is affected by location, type of employment and type of employer.

In Suffolk and Nassau, for example, fast food workers saw a minimum wage increase to $10.75 on Dec. 31, whereas the minimum wage for most other workers rose to $10. In NYC, the minimum wage for fast food workers rose to $12. For other workers, the rate depends on the size of employer; it rose to $11 for workers employed by companies with 11 or more employees and $10.50 for those employed by companies with 10 or fewer employees. The minimum wage upstate rose to $9.70 — except fast food workers, who have a minimum wage of $10.75.

The enforcement and outreach unit, which will include staff from multiple state agencies, will
will educate both workers and businesses on specific requirements included under the new minimum wage rates, the governor said.

Approximately 200 investigators from state agencies will prioritize minimum wage education and enforcement activities, according to the press release. Employers are subject to a fine of $3 for every hour that they fail to pay the proper minimum wage to an employee. They must also pay back wages plus 100 percent of liquidated damages, in addition to 100-percent civil penalties. The Department of Labor can conduct an audit of an employer’s entire workforce and the wages paid.

These higher pay will increase minimum wage workers’ spending power by more than $15.7 billion, the governor said.

“No one who works full time should be forced to live in poverty,” N.Y. State Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon said.

Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter and editor, an attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including a “writer of the year” award from the N.Y. Press Association in 2015. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website. Email Denise.