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Documented Launches The Wage Theft Monitor

Documented's Wage Theft Monitor is the largest public repository of data on New York businesses found guilty of wage theft.

Today we are releasing Wage Theft Monitor — the largest public repository of data on New York businesses found guilty of wage theft. This is the culmination of a five-year effort to provide more transparency about the conditions New York workers face. 

The idea started one day in the office of Don Bosco Workers, a worker’s center in Port Chester. Mazin Sidahmed, the co-founder of Documented, and I were in the office of Gonzalo Cruz, the organization’s program coordinator. We have long heard from workers and advocates how pervasive wage theft is, but it has always been difficult to prove. We were visiting Cruz to learn more about the issue and how his organization worked to address it. 

Like many worker’s centers, Don Bosco conducted its own investigations into wage theft to get employers to pay up instead of venturing into the expensive courts system and the long and often fruitless Department of Labor complaint program. Cruz began to pull papers out of his desk, including two wage recovery orders against the same Connecticut tree trimming business from the state’s DOL. The orders were for two different workers, about a year apart. His point: Many of these businesses continue to steal from their workers unabated.

Also Read: 127,000 New York Workers Have Been Victims of Wage Theft

Also Read: NYS Department of Labor Fails to Recover $79 Million in Stolen Wages

I left that meeting wondering what could have changed if the second worker had known about the first. Would anything have been different? Was it possible to prevent that wage theft?

Shortly after, I filed a records request to the New York State DOL for data on which businesses had been found guilty of stealing wages. With the help of the Cornell Law School First Amendment Clinic, we were able to file a lawsuit in state court after the DOL continuously delayed responding to our freedom of information request. We then worked with a web developer on a method of conveying this important information directly and easily for readers. With the Wage Theft Monitor and the preceding two stories we published in partnership with ProPublica, we are marking the third major installment in our considerable efforts to cast a new light on this pervasive issue. 

Please take a moment to explore the monitor. It is likely you will find businesses that you know, and maybe some you love. Everything from small corner shops to major New York institutions are included in the data. Government agencies, nonprofits and major profitable corporations were all found to have stolen their workers’ wages. The cases range from a few hundred dollars to several hundred thousands of dollars from one worker.

Behind the dots on this map are the stories of over 100,000 workers, some of whom missed rent, went hungry, or were unable to pay for medical care after losing a paycheck.

“$600 is a huge amount of money for the community. It’s between housed and unhoused,” Alex Garcia, a former organizer with the worker advocacy organization New Immigrant Community Empowerment explained to me. 

We also see this map as a great place for reporters to pursue stories. Experts in this issue explain that wage theft often coincides with a dangerous work environment, fraud, extortion or other violations. Amir Khafagy’s March 2023 investigation into the Terrence Cardinal Cooke nursing home began after we found a wage theft claim in our data. In the months after he reported on that facility, he found ample documentation and stories of violence, drug smuggling, and sexual assault among staff and residents in the nursing home. We believe there are many such stories to be discovered in the over 33,000 cases in the database. 

We have more plans for this data in the future. One of them is to make our analysis available for everyone to dig deeper into the data. We will also have further stories on this issue, but in the meantime, please take a look at the wage theft monitor today and send us your thoughts. 

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