“Wage theft is a serious worker health issue,” said Joel Shufro, executive director of NYCOSH, an education and advocacy organization for worker safety and health. “When employers fail to pay workers even the minimum wage, force employees to work off the clock or deliberately misclassify employees as independent contractors, this causes stress for the workers. Stress can cause workers to lose sleep, have poor concentration, and have accidents on the job. It can also be a factor in heart disease.”
In addition, employers who violate labor wage laws are more likely to cut corners on health and safety training, further endangering their workers, Shufro said.
According to NYOCHS, New York currently lags behind dozens of states including Arizona, Ohio, Idaho and New Mexico, which all have stiffer penalties to prevent wage theft.
The Wage Theft Prevention Act of 2010, which currently is before the New York Legislature, would increase penalties and tighten enforcement of the state laws protecting workers from nonpayment and underpayment. It also would encourage employees to report violations and shield them when they blow the whistle, according to NYCOSH.