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Our attorneys stay on top of changes in legislation, agency regulations, case law, and industry trends—then craft timely legal alerts to keep clients up to date on legal developments important to their business.

October 5, 2023

Legislative Update: New Developments Impacting New York State Employers

On September 6, 2023, New York State Governor Kathy Hochul signed into law a series of legislative acts amplifying worker protections and benefits in the state. These legislative changes will (1) increase benefits for injured workers on workers’ compensation and (2) strengthen wage theft penalties by classifying certain actions as larceny. As employers dedicated to maintaining transparent and compliant workplaces, it’s paramount to understand and adjust to these new regulations. The following are key updates employers should be aware of:

Workers’ Compensation Benefits Are on the Rise

To bolster support for workers, especially those on the lower end of the wage spectrum, the governor has signed legislation (S1161-A/A2034-A) initiating a phased increase in minimum workers’ compensation benefits. By 2026, workers’ compensation benefits will rise to one-fifth of the state’s average weekly wage. While this does not directly impact the compensation paid to employees by their employers (as workers’ compensation benefits are paid directly to beneficiaries by the state fund), it might influence the cost of workers’ compensation insurance premiums. Keep an eye out for further details and consult your insurance advisors, as your current insurance plans may need revisiting to align with these changes. 

Wage Theft Is Now Larceny

With the passage of legislation making wage theft by employers a criminal offense (S2832-A/A154-A), understanding proper wage and hour practices becomes even more vital than ever before. Originally, there were expectations that the legislature would pass a law permitting attachments and potential seizures of employers’ personal assets during the pendency of a dispute. Luckily, that law did not pass. However, the law that was passed presents an entirely different set of challenges. First, taking funds rightfully owed to employees has always been against the law. With this update, it’s now categorized as criminal behavior—specifically, larceny. Not all underpayments will equate to larceny; repeated negligence or deliberate violations could lead to severe consequences, including felony charges and potential incarceration. To mitigate risks and to avoid this devastating outcome, ensure diligent maintenance of wage and hour documentation and adherence to relevant laws.

Preparing for Enhanced Wage Compliance

Given the increasing attention to wage practices, now is an opportune time for employers to bolster their compliance measures. They should begin by (1) reviewing current wage practices, (2) identifying any potential areas of improvement or gaps in recordkeeping, and then (3) implementing a well-reasoned and thought-out plan to remedy any deficiencies. To that end, employers should consider:

  1. Documentation and Auditing: Ensure wage records (e.g., time and attendance, payroll, onboarding documents, etc.) are complete and current. Periodic audits can identify and rectify inconsistencies.
  2. Training and Communication: Arm HR and managerial teams with the requisite knowledge to tackle wage issues. Consistent communication with staff promotes openness and trust.
  3. Legal Consultation: Collaborate with legal professionals to understand wage law intricacies and their implications. A preemptive compliance strategy is the only way to successfully defeat any claim of wage theft or misappropriation.

Barclay Damon: Your Partner in Navigating Employment Practices

Our team is dedicated to helping employers navigate the complexities of employment regulations. Whether it’s understanding the nuances between wage theft and larceny or implementing best practices for compliance, we are here to guide and support you.

If you have questions regarding the content of this alert, please contact Lee Jacobs, partner, at, or another member of the firm’s Labor & Employment Practice Area.

The Labor & Employment Podcast is a weekly Barclay Damon Live podcast hosted by Ari Kwiatkowski that provides employers with important updates regarding ever-evolving state and federal labor and employment laws as well as a wide range of timely topics pertaining to labor and employment issues in the workplace. Click here to watch or listen to the Labor & Employment Podcast as well as Barclay Damon’s other podcast series: Cyber Sip and Cannabis Counselor


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