A drive-thru worker hands an order to a customer in their car
July 2, 2024

Two Years After Major Wage Theft Crackdown, Governor Hochul Celebrates More Than $63 Million Recovered for Nearly 65,000 Workers Across New York State

Two Years After Major Wage Theft Crackdown, Governor Hochul Celebrates More Than $63 Million Recovered for Nearly 65,000 Workers Across New York State

Includes Recent $1 Million Wage Recovery for More Than 20,000 Chipotle Restaurant Workers Across New York State

Builds on Governor Hochul’s Commitment to Combatting Wage Theft

Victims Are Encouraged to Report Wage Theft by Calling Wage Theft Hotline at 833-910-4378 or Utilizing the New York State Department of Labor’s Online Wage Theft Reporting and Tracking Tool

Traducción al español

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced that in the two years since she announced a major crackdown on wage theft, the New York State Department of Labor has investigated and recovered more than $63 million in stolen wages for nearly 65,000 workers across New York State. As part of the announcement, the Governor also celebrated the investigation and recovery of over $1 million in unpaid wages for more than 20,000 Chipotle restaurant workers across 207 locations statewide. Individual recoveries for workers ranged from $10 to over $3,600, highlighting the State’s unwavering commitment to ensuring fair compensation and combating wage theft.

“In the two years since I pledged to crack down on wage theft, we’ve put millions of dollars in wages back in the pockets of hardworking New Yorkers,” Governor Hochul said. “Wage theft is stealing, plain and simple. It not only cheats workers out of a day’s pay – it violates our laws and my administration is committed to ensuring that workers receive every cent that they’re owed.”

New York State Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon said, “Ensuring that workers are paid every cent they are owed is a fundamental right and we are dedicated to holding employers accountable. This significant recovery for Chipotle workers demonstrates our unwavering commitment to protecting workers' rights and fostering fair workplaces across New York State. At the same time, we are committed to working with businesses to help them achieve compliance with labor standards. I am grateful for Governor Hochul’s support, which enables us to continue these efforts to safeguard the rights of New York's workers.”

New York State Department of Labor’s $1 Million Wage Recovery From Chipotle

The significant $1 million wage recovery from Chipotle stems from a thorough investigation by NYSDOL’s Division of Labor Standards. After a tip from the Workers’ Compensation Board, NYSDOL investigated and found wage issues related to the correct minimum wage rate for fast-food workers, which is higher than the regular minimum wage. Investigators also found wage issues for spread-of-hours pay, which requires employers to pay additional time to workers whose shifts span more than ten hours in any one day. After these discoveries, NYSDOL asked Chipotle to review their pay records from December 2018 to September 2022.

During this review, NYSDOL received an additional complaint alleging that Chipotle had stopped paying certain required wages. Chipotle attributed this to a system error and conducted another records review spanning August 2021 to July 2023. This review revealed more pay issues. As a result, the combined investigations led to significant money due. Chipotle directly paid all active employees and provided the funds to NYSDOL to pay former employees the money owed.

New York State AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento said, "Every worker deserves to be paid what they have rightfully earned, and cracking down on those stealing wages sends a strong message that wage theft will not be tolerated in New York State. I applaud the dedicated union staff at the Department of Labor for all their hard work and commend Governor Hochul for her unwavering commitment to protecting working New Yorkers and their families.”

President of the New York State Building Trades Gary LaBarbera said, “Far too often, unscrupulous and greedy private employers look to take advantage of their workers by withholding wages, overtime, and benefits, but it has become clear that through the mobilization of its wage theft crackdown, the State has stepped up to protect hourly workers from further exploitation. Honest work should result in honest pay and accountability for these unlawful practices is imperative. We applaud Governor Hochul for these successful efforts and her continued commitment to being an advocate for hard working New Yorkers and their families and look forward to continuing our collaboration with the Executive Chamber and the Department of Labor to ensure all workers, including our tradesmen and tradeswomen, are being compensated properly statewide.”

Governor Hochul’s Continued Crackdown on Wage Theft

Governor Hochul has maintained a strong commitment to addressing wage theft, a pressing issue affecting workers across New York State. Two years ago, Governor Hochul announced a comprehensive initiative to combat this illegal practice, which included the implementation of a wage theft hotline developing a state-of-the-art online wage theft reporting system. Since the Governor launched the statewide crackdown, NYSDOL’s Division of Worker Protection has recovered $63.5 million in wages and damages for nearly 65,000 workers. Over the past decade, NYSDOL had recovered and disbursed more than $360 million in stolen wages, identified over a million misclassified workers, and assessed over $400 million owed in unemployment insurance contributions through both criminal cases and civil enforcement.

As part of NYSDOL’s Worker Protection Division, the Division of Labor Standards utilizes a variety of enforcement strategies to accomplish its mission and carry out program priorities to uphold labor standards in a variety of industries statewide. This allows for the needed flexibility to perform core mission work while implementing new rules and laws. Self-audits allow cooperative employers to quickly identify amounts owed to workers and rectify monetary violations quickly. The Division of Labor Standards units carry out several specialized functions:

  • Field District Offices routinely conduct on-site investigations to review records, interview witnesses, verify compliance and expand investigations beyond the original complaint if necessary. They work closely with employers to ensure compliance and collect restitution for workers.
  • The Mediation Unit provides opportunities for employees and employers to reach fair and speedy resolution to conflicts regarding allegations of labor rights violations. Mediation takes place before or during an investigation and before formal notices are issued. This provides both sides with an opportunity to be heard, to be educated about the State’s labor laws, and to resolve underlying issues in an expeditious manner.
  • The Central Investigations Unit investigates basic wage or wage supplement claims received using an expedited approach. A demand letter is sent to employers within 48 hours of case creation, allowing the Division to be able to accept a high volume of smaller claims from individual workers owed wages.

The Department is also the lead agency in Governor Hochul’s Wage Theft Task Force, a collaborative interagency effort with law enforcement partners to share information and coordinate efforts. Victims are encouraged to file a wage complaint and can email the Department for assistance. For more information on claiming unpaid wages, visit the Division of Labor Standards webpage.