2018 living wage audit finds $220K in underpayments

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Nassau County Comptroller Jack Schnirman (Photo courtesy of the Nassau County Comptroller's Office)

Some $220,000 in underpayments to employees of county contractors were identified as a result of a 2018 living wage audit, according to Nassau County Comptroller Jack Schnirman’s recent report. 

The annual report, released Thursday, reviews the enforcement and monitoring of the living wage law over the course of 2018. 

The Nassau County Living Wage Law, enacted in 2007, requires most county contractors to pay their employees a living wage, which is annually based on New York Metro’s Consumer Price Index. 

On Aug. 1, the living wage was increased to $16.76, from $16.41, for employees who do not receive health benefits, and from $14.27 to $14.51 for employees who receive health benefits from their employer. 

Under the law, full-time employees are granted a minimum of 12 paid days off each year, and part-time employees who work at least 20 hours per week receive proportionate paid days off, according to the audit. 

The comptroller’s office completed one audit of a county contractor over the course of 2018, All Metro Home Care Services of New York Inc., which was found to owe over $220,000 to 147 employees in uncompensated time-off and underpayments.

The home health care service holds offices in Lynbrook and Manhattan.

Some 147 employees were paid less than the living wage for underpayments of $100,167 and 119 employees were not compensated for earned time-off totaling $123,073. 

The report also states that auditors found 240 instances of live-in aides working more than the 60-hour per week maximum and 92 instances of employees working over 80 hours in a week. 

All Metro agreed to calculate and pay the underpayments identified in the audit to its employees and said they would seek input from its information service department to better maintain records.

A six-month review of the company is currently underway and should be available in the near future, as stated in the report. 

Companies with a county service contract of at least $25,000; financial assistance contracts of at least $50,000; and where there are at least 10 employees are required to pay employees a living wage.

Contractors can apply to receive a waiver if they meet certain criteria. The report identifies the two most common exemptions as the highest-paid employee is paid less than six times the salary of the lowest-paid employee and compliance with the living wage law would increase the contractor’s annual budget by more than 10 percent. 

Schnirman and Nassau County Executive Laura Curran closed a loophole in July that allowed subsidiaries to qualify for a waiver without the county’s review of its parent company’s finances. 

The report states that nine agencies submitted for waivers in 2018, to which eight were granted. Six of the eight agencies were granted full waivers and two agencies were granted partial waivers. 

In Schnirman’s letter preceding the report, he said that waiver requests were “routinely granted” by prior administrations. 

If contractors are found in violation of the living wage law, the county imposes a fine of $500 for each employee each week they did not pay the required wages. If the violator does not pay the proper wages within 30 days of the initial notice, the penalty is raised to $1,000. If another 30 days pass without mitigation, the fees increase to 2,000 each week. 

The launch of a multilingual hotline for reporting living wage violations recorded 210 percent more calls in 2018 than the year prior, the audit states. The Living Wage Advisory Board also met four times in 2018, compared to one meeting in 2017. 

Since the living wage law was enacted in 2007, over $1.03 million in unpaid wages has been recovered, with auditors uncovering 842 instances of underpayment. Some $327,968 has been recovered for uncompensated time off with 918 instances of underpayment found, according to Schnirman’s audit. 

Several audits were initiated over the course of 2018 and the results are expected to be made available before the end of the year, as stated in the report. 

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