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For Immediate Release: Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Contact: Morgan Rubin,, 646-517-1813

NEW REPORT: Workers in New York Owed Over $125 Million in

Stolen Wages Even After Judgments
New Legislation (A5501) Would Provide Protections Against Delinquent Employers
New YorkA new report released today, Empty Judgments: The Wage Collection Crisis in New
York, is the first study to highlight the problems that workers in New York face in collecting the
wages they are owed, even after they have won their case against delinquent employers. The
report, authored by the Community Development Project at the Urban Justice Center, the
Employment Law Unit at The Legal Aid Society, and the National Center for Law and Economic
Justice, reveals that unscrupulous employers were able to evade labor laws even after courts
ordered them to pay $25 million in stolen wages to workers. The report also found that the NYS
Department of Labor was not been able to collect $100 million in recent wages owed to workers.
The reports release coincides with the introduction of a new bill, A5501, known as the SWEAT
Bill Securing Wages Earned Against Theft, by Assemblywoman Linda B. Rosenthal (DWF/ Manhattan) that would expand existing mechanisms in New York law to better help
workers collect the wages they are owed.
Currently, aggrieved employees who are often owed thousands of dollars in compensation, win
their wages back in court, but have little to no ability to compel their employer to pay up, said
Assemblymember Rosenthal, sponsor of the SWEAT Bill in the New York State Assembly.
Since the days of Saigon Grill, I have been working to assist employees fighting for their due
and from being taken advantage of by unscrupulous employers, and this legislation is a natural
extension of that work to empower employees. My legislation will help to remove the barriers
employees face when trying to collect legal judgments for unpaid wages.
To provide a snapshot of the collection problem, researchers for the report identified 62 cases of
federal and state court wage theft judgments over the span of six years, from 2007 to 2013,
impacting 284 workers and their families. Data from the NYS Department of Labor was also
collected through New Yorks Freedom of Information Law.
We won this case and we got a judgment but it does not mean victory because until now, the
boss still has not complied with the law, said Yan Zhang, former employee of Babi Nails
Salon. They transferred the company and properties into their family members name. They
closed down the nail salon and reopened using their sons name. If workers win the case, they
should be able to collect their money.
The report details some staggering findings:

There is at least $125 million owed to New York States workers in unpaid wage
judgments issued by courts and the New York Department of Labor.

Workers in the restaurant and construction industry are particularly impacted by their
inability to collect wages owed from their employers.
69% of the cases identified by the report are default judgments where the employer
completely disregards the legal process by refusing to show up in court.
74% of the amount of wages DOL determined to be owed to workers were based on
minimum wage violations, demonstrating the extreme level of exploitation the evasive
employers had engaged in.

There is an illusion that if workers stand up for their rights and win in court, they will actually
be paid for their hard-earned wages, said Amy Tai, Senior Staff Attorney for the Urban
Justice Center. But in the cases that we identified, employers not only violated the labor laws,
they continued to disregard the laws by refusing to show up in court and participate in the legal
process, creating sham corporations to evade liability, and hiding property and assets to avoid
eventual judgments.
The SWEAT Bill will level the playing field for workers who have fallen victim to wage theft,
said Hollis Pfitsch, Staff Attorney at The Legal Aid Society.
The bill proposes the following amendments to New York State law:
1. Expansion of New Yorks mechanics lien law to allow all workers the right to put a
temporary lien on an employers property when they have not been paid for their work.
2. Adoption of Connecticuts attachment standard to allow workers with wage theft claims
to temporarily hold an employers assets during litigation if the workers show a
likelihood of success on their claims.
3. Amendment of the New York Business Corporation Law and Limited Liability Company
Law to help workers collect wage theft judgments from the principal owners of privately
held corporations.
Workers and advocates say the report and new legislation are timely as workers are facing more
wage theft and less protection. A recent study by the U.S. Department of Labor calculates that
New Yorkers are losing $20 million in stolen wages each week. The current wage theft crisis is
bad for everyone--law-abiding businesses cant compete, tax dollars are lost to state coffers, and
wages are dragged down for all workers. This new bill will be good for all workers and New
York State. We hope our state legislators take swift action in passing this very necessary bill,
said Jei Fong from Chinese Staff & Workers Association, a member of the SWEAT
The SWEAT (Securing Wages Earned Against Theft) Coalition is a growing group of
grassroots organizations, workers centers, legal service providers, and advocates fighting to
ensure that New York's workers are able to recover the wages they are owed by employers.