Albany OKs Stronger Labor Law for Workers

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New York's beleaguered actors waiters can celebrate today: Governor Paterson just signed into law new penalties for employers who bilk their workers out of fair wages and overtime pay. The law, which takes effect in April, hopes to curtail some of the problems that are "rampant" in service industry jobs -- including "restaurants, retail, and construction businesses where illegal immigrants make up much of the work force," the New York Times says.

The Times also cites a study by the National Employment Law Project, which estimates that in New York City, lost or stolen wages can add up to more than $18.4 million a week.

The previous law required employers to repay wages and up to 25 percent in penalties, but the new law quadruples that penalty to up to 100 percent. It also "removes technicalities that required whistle-blowers to cite" which part of the law employers were breaking, and allows fines of up to $10,000 for bosses who fire or threaten employees.

Opponents of the bill argued that the law would make a mess of paperwork for honest employers, but immigrant advocacy groups and labor experts lauded it as "a really big success" for workers and something that finally "puts real teeth in New York's labor law."

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