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Legislator Gelfarb Introduces Local Law to Protect Laborers from Wage Theft

On Monday, Legislator David Gelfarb (R) Harrison, Port Chester, Rye Brook, introduced Legislation designed to strengthen the County’s existing home improvement business licensing laws to better protect County residents and, in particular, the workers who provide labor for the County’s home improvement businesses.

Legislator Gelfarb announced the Legislation at a press conference where he was joined by Ann Heekin, Executive Director of Don Bosco Worker’s, Inc.-  a grassroots community-organizing group led by Latino immigrant day laborers and other low-income workers in Port Chester. Also in attendance were worker advocates including victims of wage theft.

Legislator Gelfarb said, “This legislation will provide new protections for a huge segment of the laborer work force in Westchester County. Home improvement laborers are often immigrants and work very hard for modest wages. When unscrupulous business owners cheat them out of their hard-earned wages, the financial impact on them and their families can be devastating.” Legislator Gelfarb said. “These tougher new laws will not only give laborers an easier way to report wage theft, it will allow Westchester County to deny licenses to contractors who don’t play by the rules.”

The proposed Local Law would make it more difficult for businesses that do not pay their employees or engage in other unscrupulous business-related conduct to operate in the County. It would clarify the grounds upon which the County may deny, revoke, or suspend a home improvement business license and require the County to consider whether a home improvement business has previously failed to pay employees’ wages in making licensing determinations. The proposed Act would also help the County identify home improvement businesses that have previously engaged in wage theft or other unscrupulous conduct by requiring applicants for home improvement business licenses to provide additional information.
In addition, the proposed Act would establish an effective process for consumers and workers to report potential violations and improper conduct by a home improvement business to the County, and it would clarify the County’s existing power to require home improvement businesses to post a bond in certain circumstances where a business has failed to pay its employees’ wages.

Ann Heekin, Executive Director of the Don Bosco Community Center in Port Chester has worked with Legislator Gelfarb to craft the Wage Theft Protection Law.

"The proposed amendment to Westchester County home improvement licensing laws would help to clarify when the County may refuse to issue or renew a home improvement business license, based on an applicant's past violations of the law and/or outstanding judgments.” Heekin said.

"We know that despite strong wage and hour protections offered to day laborers at the federal and state level, studies show pervasive wage and hour violations exist.

“This bill to amend county licensing laws will better protect County residents, responsible contractors, and workers who provide labor for home improvement businesses.

"Wage theft harms all of us in the County. Not only does the worker and his family suffer as a result of stolen wages but responsible businesses - contractors who pay their wages according to the law - suffer when their cost of doing business is higher than that of the bad actor. This is a bill aimed at the bad actor. It is aimed at lifting up good workers, good contractors, and the economic good our our County."

Video of the press conference can be viewed here:


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