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New York State to Provide Protection for Undocumented Immigrants Who are Victims of Improper Payment of Wages

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently announced a new plan to protect low-wage immigrant workers from wage theft. The plan was announced during his annual State of the State speech in mid-January and included the news his administration would sponsor temporary visas for any undocumented immigrant able to show he or she was subjected to wage law violations and/or physical abuse by an employer.

The program is an extension of the federal government’s U visa program offered to undocumented immigrants who are victims of sex trafficking. U visas given to sex trafficking victims allow them to work and avoid deportation, granting them temporary residency for up to four years. In the program, law enforcement must certify the individual assisted in the prosecution of a crime. Now, the U visa program will be extended in New York to workers cheated out of wages, which could eventually help thousands of undocumented immigrants gain legal status in the United States.

According to Cuomo, the move is a statement to the rest of the nation, demonstrating how immigrants should be treated and welcomed to New York and the country.

Immigrant Workers Cheated Out of Overtime

Business owners are already feeling the heat from the shift in support of immigrants. One example involved the owner of Elisa’s Food & Plus restaurant located in Westchester County and resulted in payment of $47,000 to five former employees, in addition to the owner serving three years’ probation. Employees of the restaurant had been forced to work up to 15 hours per day with no overtime.

Another example occurred at Brooklyn’s San Remo Pizzeria and Restaurant, where owners must now pay workers more than $200,000 in back pay and penalties. One of the restaurant’s delivery workers worked 77 hours during a six-day workweek and was paid only $300 with no overtime benefits.

The aggressive new law is part of a pattern by Cuomo to support immigrant and other low-wage workers, including a $15 per hour minimum wage law in the state and legal action against landlords who are accused of harassing immigrant tenants.

Many undocumented workers are fearful of complaining about not being paid properly. This law is designed to provide protection for workers who are often unprotected.

If you have questions about the changes in New York laws that affect immigrant workers or you have experienced other issues with your employer, we can help. If you are an undocumented worker being paid below minimum wage or not being paid overtime at the rate of time and one half your regular rate of pay, contact Borrelli & Associates, P.L.L.C. to discuss your situation.

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