On February 16, 2023, Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg announced the creation of the first ever Worker Protection Unit. The Unit is tasked with investigating and prosecuting wage theft and other employer violations in industries ranging from hotels and healthcare facilities to restaurants and fast-food businesses. The Unit will also enforce workplace safety labor laws and pursue charges ranging from reckless endangerment to manslaughter when an employer creates dangerous or deadly work environments.
The press release notes that wage theft in New York accounts for approximately $1 billion in lost wages each year, leaving tens of thousands of workers affected. As such, Bragg announced the creation of the Stolen Wage Fund, an initiative financed through the D.A.’s Criminal Justice Initiative. Victims of wage theft will have the opportunity to recoup their losses after a criminal case has concluded and case-related restitution has already been distributed.
The D.A.’s office also clarified that “the Department of Labor will vet claims and calculate stolen wages, which the D.A.’s Office will then distribute to claimants. Claims must be for work performed in Manhattan, reported within one year of a criminal conviction for theft, and filed under penalty of perjury. The Office will assess the success of this pilot fund after one year and will commit to additional funding as appropriate.”