NY EMPIRE Act – Posted January 29, 2020
Yesterday, workers and lawmakers gathered in Albany to show support for New York’s EMPIRE Act. The “Empowering People in Rights Enforcement Worker Protection Act” was introduced as a bill to protect workers from wage theft.
Corporations and employers use forced arbitration agreements to compel workers to waive their right to be heard by a judge and jury and bring claims with other workers if their employer breaks the law. According to Make the Road, employers’ use of forced arbitration clauses has impacted 55% of nonunion workers in New York State.
The EMPIRE Act allows employees, whistleblowers, or organizations selected by the employee to initiate public enforcement on behalf of the state, effectively extending the reach of the department of labor. Not only will this benefit workers who have been mistreated by their employers (Make the Road estimates an estimated $3 billion in unresolved stolen wages from workers), but it benefits the state as well, potentially generating over $17 million in annual revenue.
The EMPIRE Act is similar to California’s Private Attorney General Act, which allows workers to file lawsuits against their employers and act as private attorneys general. Workers in California can bring claims against their employer in court, even if the employer has included an arbitration provision.