NYS Dept. of Labor: Lewis County dairy farm failed to pay two workers overtime wages for nearly 2 years

Commissioner Reardon Issues Warning to Unscrupulous Employers

News release

ALBANY, NY —  The New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL) announced a settlement in a wage theft case that resulted in two farm workers receiving nearly $150,000 in back wages. NYSDOL investigators found that Lewis County dairy farm Hancor Holsteins had failed to pay its workers the overtime wages they were owed for nearly two years.

“Let cases like this stand as a warning to unscrupulous employers: New York State will not tolerate rightfully earned wages being stolen from workers,” said New York State Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon. “We will aggressively pursue and hold bad actors accountable in our ongoing efforts to protect workers and assure they receive all the wages they have earned.”

The two farm workers filed complaints with NYSDOL’s Division of Labor Standards claiming they were not paid for overtime hours worked for the period from January 1, 2020, through December 12, 2021. Over the course of the investigation, Hancor Holsteins admitted to NYSDOL investigators that they altered payroll records to reduce actual hours worked as a way to avoid paying overtime. The farm workers were not being paid overtime for hours worked past 60 hours per week as required by the Farm Laborer Fair Practice Act. Both victims received more than $74,000 each to compensate for the underpayment.

New York State’s Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act establishes that, as of January 2020, all farm workers must be paid one and a half times the regular rate of pay for any hours worked over 60 hours in a calendar week. The law also established the formation of the Farm Laborers Wage Board, which in 2022 recommended lowering the current 60-hour threshold for overtime pay to 40 hours per week over a ten-year phase-in period, beginning in 2024. In February 2022, NYSDOL announced the adoption of the final farm labor overtime regulations, codifying the Board’s report and recommendation into law.

In July 2022, Governor Hochul announced renewed efforts by New York State to crack down on wage theft, including nearly $3 million in recoveries through the Wage Theft Task Force, a coordinated partnership between NYSDOL, the New York State Attorney General, the New York State Insurance Fund, the New York City Department of Investigations, and Offices of District Attorneys across the state. The Governor also announced launch of a new hotline, 833-910-4378, which New Yorkers can call to report wage theft. Victims can also email labor.sm.ls.ask@labor.ny.gov for assistance.

Over the past decade, NYSDOL had recovered and dispersed more than $360 million in stolen wages, identified over a million misclassified workers, and assessed over $400 million owed in unemployment insurance contributions through both criminal cases and civil enforcement. For more information wages, including minimum and unpaid wages, visit NYSDOL’s Division of Labor Standards’ webpage.