Gov. Cuomo has given the group $700,000 in order to coordinate outreach and education with workers and employers, as well as investigations, prosecutions and data collection, and compliance efforts across the state.
In addition, Cuomo has also created anti-retaliation and mediation units within the State Department of Labor, in order to eliminate retaliation against workers who assert their rights, officials from the office said.
The governor announced the new task force after allegations of worker exploitation at New York City nail salons last year.
“Our administration is taking aggressive steps to protect workers and combat exploitation, and today we continue our progress in that fight,” Cuomo stated. “I want all employers across the state to hear this message loud and clear: we will not tolerate worker exploitation, period.”
So far, the state has opened investigations into 30 employers throughout the state, including restaurants and delis, supermarkets and housecleaning companies, landscaping, and car washes. The employers have been accused of violating child labor laws, stealing wages, tips and overtime pay, retaliating against employees who complain of wage and workplace violations, and failing to carry appropriate Workers Compensation Insurance, or to contribute to the Unemployment Insurance Fund.
“Abuse of workers often occurs in the so-called ‘underground economy,’ where employees are paid off the books, or not at all, are not protected by unemployment insurance or workers compensation, face threats of harm, and are afraid of seeking help from government agencies in fear of losing their jobs or facing other retaliatory actions at the hands of employers,” Cuomo’s office said.
According to the state, the task force is composed of more than ten state agencies, including the Departments of State, Labor, Agriculture and Markets and Tax and Finance, as well as the Office of Children and Family Services, Division of Criminal Justice Services, state police, and Office of Faith Based Services.
In addition, among the investigators in the field will be multilingual agents who speak Bengali, Mandarin, Russian, Spanish, Hindi, Haitian Creole, and Korean.
Individuals interested in reporting a case of worker exploitation, or additional information regarding the task force, may visit www.ny.gov/EndWorkerExploitation.