When a group of welders and ironworkers approached their employer, AGL Industries, about wage violations, including unpaid overtime, the company had a simple response. It told its employees they couldn’t do anything to recoup their lost pay. That turned out to be far from the truth.
After a state investigation and subsequent plea agreement, AGL Industries will pay back about $6 million in stolen wages to approximately 500 employees. According to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office, it’s the largest single wage recovery in the New York State Department of Labor’s 115-year history.
The case against AGL Industries
The case against AGL Industries started in February 2018 after a complaint was filed by an ironworker’s union. In the months that followed, an investigation found that from November 2013 through December 2017, AGL Industries did not pay its workers all of their earned wages, including proper overtime pay. The company then reported fraudulent information to the state.
In August 2019, the governor’s office announced a plea agreement with AGL. Under the terms of the agreement:
- The company admitted to third-degree grand larceny.
- An AGL official, Dominic Lofaso, pleaded guilty to Class D grand larceny.
- AGL will pay back the affected workers $6 million over the next five years.
- AGL will also pay about $260,000 to the state’s unemployment insurance fund.
Wage theft as an issue
Wage theft can take many forms. It can include paying below the minimum wage, not paying proper overtime wages, having employees work during meal breaks or while off the clock, and making illegal deductions.
It happens more often than people think, with one economic survey estimating that about 2.4 million workers in the country’s 10 most populous states have been victims of wage theft. In total, the study estimates that the underpayment of wages to these workers adds up to $8 billion each year, for an average of $3,300 per full-time worker.
Workers can take action to recoup these stolen wages, as the law provides options for those who are victims of wage theft. Like the welders and ironworkers in this recent case, employees can receive justice.