The New York Senate and Assembly recently passed Senate Bill S2844B to strengthen current laws for employees who are victims of wage theft to secure and collect unpaid wages from their employers for work already performed. This bill would amend five sections of the law (Lien Law; Labor Law; Attachment under the Civil Practice Law and Rules; the Business Corporations Law; and the Limited Liability Law). If signed by the Governor, this bill would create a broad right for any employee to obtain a lien on an employer’s property based on the allegation of a wage claim and would significantly increase employee power in such disputes.

The bill would expand on current lien remedies and create an “employee lien,” which would allow an employee who has a wage claim to place a lien on his or her employer’s interest in property (real or personal property) for the value of that employee’s wage claim, plus liquidated damages. “Wage claim” is defined as any claim constituting a violation of New York Labor Law § 170 (overtime), § 193 (improper deductions), § 196-d (gratuities), or § 652 and § 673 (minimum wage). Wage claims also include claims for breach of employment contract in which wages are not payed under the contract, and Federal minimum wage claims pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 206 and § 207. The employee’s lien cannot be placed on an employer’s deposit accounts or goods.

Notice of the lien must be filed within three years of the end of employment that gave rise to the wage claim. Real property notice must be filed in the clerk’s office of the county where the property is located. Personal property notice must be filed with a financing statement pursuant to section 9-501 of the Uniform Commercial Code. Employee’s liens may be filed by the employee or the New York State Department of Labor and the New York Attorney General for wage claims that are subject of their investigations, court actions or administrative agency actions. Notice of an employee’s lien must be served upon the employer within five days before or 30 days after filing notice. The lien is valid for one year unless extension is filed with the county clerk. If no action is commenced during the extension period, the lien will be automatically extinguished unless extended by a court order.

If passed, this bill would also streamline the procedures by which employees may hold the ten largest shareholders of a non-publicly traded corporation and the ten members with the largest ownership interests in a limited liability company personally liable for wage theft. The bill also contains a provision that would allow employees to examine a business corporation’s and limited liability company’s records to obtain the shareholders’ or members’ (as the case may be) names, addresses, and ownership value in the company.

Once the bill is signed by the Governor, it will take effect 30 days after becoming law and will apply to all claims for liabilities that arose prior to its passage.

This post was co-authored by Michael Lisitano, legal intern at Robinson+Cole. Michael is not yet admitted to practice law.