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January 7, 2020
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Albany, NY

New York State Department of Labor Investigation Leads to 654 Concert Workers Recovering $460,000 in Unpaid Wages

New York State Department of Labor Investigation Leads to 654 Concert Workers Recovering $460,000 in Unpaid Wages
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Music Events Company Quickly Changes Business Model to Become Compliant

The New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL) today announced that it has reached a $460,357.50 settlement with music events company SoFar Sounds, LLC of New York City. The settlement came in the wake of a Department of Labor investigation which revealed that 654 SoFar Sounds “ambassadors” were never compensated for work performed at SoFar events between 2016 and 2019.

SoFar Sounds, a for-profit business, produced small concerts in cities around the world with the assistance of uncompensated “ambassadors” to operate and manage individual events. When the Department of Labor opened its investigation, SoFar cooperated fully and immediately changed its business model. SoFar now staffs all its events with paid employees. The company also agreed to immediately compensate ambassadors who provided any unpaid work.

New York State Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon said, “Worker protection is at the forefront of our mission at the Department of Labor and that includes making sure New Yorkers receive the wages they are entitled to. In this case, SoFar made our job much easier because they wanted to be a partner and a good corporate citizen.

“When a for-profit business enlists the services of an individual, that individual is an employee, and must be paid for the work they are doing,” said Commissioner Reardon. “My Department closely monitors compliance with New York State Labor Law and we recognize that sometimes businesses make mistakes. In this case, SoFar Sounds fully cooperated with the investigation and corrected that mistake. They have taken swift steps to change their business practices, and they are fully compensating their employees. I consider this a win for everybody!”

The Department began the investigation in August 2019, after a reporter and musician contacted the NYSDOL to learn more about the rules and regulations that regulate businesses like SoFar Sounds. The conversation prompted the NYSDOL to investigate SoFar’s labor practices.

The investigation revealed that the volunteer ambassadors were running all aspects of the concerts, from promoting events on social media to setting up venues, and they were not paid for the work they performed. 

“We are thrilled to share that each employee will receive a check from NYSDOL and will be compensated appropriately for the work they performed,” said Commissioner Reardon.

Thanks to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s support of worker protection initiatives, New York State is a national leader in recovering stolen wages and returning funds to workers. In 2018, the New York State Department of Labor returned $35.5 million to more than 30,000 workers. Since 2011, the state has recovered and returned $320 million to more than 315,000 workers.

The Department of Labor’s Division of Labor Standards enforces the New York State Labor Laws that govern the minimum wage, hours of work and payment of wages, and investigates claims for unpaid and withheld wages.

Employees who feel they are owed wages should contact the New York State Department of Labor at [email protected] or 1-888-469-7365.