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State Senator Jessica Ramos

On New Year’s day, Gov. Andrew Cuomo vetoed a bill that proposed to make it easier for workers awarded wage theft judgements to collect their money. 

The SWEAT (Securing Wages Earned Against Theft) bill, introduced by Jackson Heights State Senator Jessica Ramos and Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal of the Upper West Side, would have allowed employees from all industries to freeze the assets of the employer while their wage theft case is pending to ensure the money is there when the case is over.

Cuomo’s veto message explained though “no administration has been more aggressive on wage theft than ours,” he had due process concerns about the type of lien enforcement included in the bill. It is the third Ramos-sponsored bill that he has vetoed in a week span.

“We are deeply disappointed by the veto of the SWEAT bill, which would give employees a fighting chance to collect wages that are owed to them,” Rosenthal and Ramos said in a joint statement.

The legislation addressed the obstacles that the millions of New York state residents who are estimated to lose money to wage theft per year face in recouping their losses. Employers charged with wage theft have filed for bankruptcy, changed their business name or transferred ownership to another individual who was not on the hook for the wage theft claim as a means of dodging payment. 

The bill sought to expand New York’s lien law to workers of all industries in order to make it easier to freeze the assets of employers accused of wage theft in the duration of a lawsuit. 

Cuomo wrote that he was concerned that the bill would not require judicial review or notice to be sent to the employer before the lien was filed. The veto message continued to say that Cuomo supported the intent of the bill, but that these technicalities raised alarms that a court might find the law unconstitutional.

The statement ended by saying that Cuomo would propose legislation that would allow “any victim of wage theft utilize any and all assets, even personal assets, of the bad actor to ensure satisfaction of judgments for victims” in his executive budget.

Meanwhile, Ramos and Rosenthal wrote that the SWEAT Coalition will continue fighting for the bill in 2020.

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