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Wage Theft

What is wage theft?


Wage theft happens when your employer:


  • Pays you less than minimum wage

  • Refuses to pay overtime  

  • Deducts pay for breaks that you never took

  • Forces you to work “off the clock”

  • Refuses to issue your final paycheck

  • Takes your tips

  • Misclassifies you as an “independent contractor” when you’re really a regular employee

  • Doesn’t pay you on time

  • Refuses to pay you at all


You have a right to demand money that's owed to you. If you or your co-workers are the victims of wage theft and want help from the Rochester Workers' Center,

 click here.


Most workers in New York State must receive overtime pay at the rate of 1½ times their regular rate of pay for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek. 


Workers not covered by overtime laws include:

  • Executive Employees

  • Administrative Employees

  • Professional Employees

  • Outside Salespeople

  • Individuals Working for a Federal, State, or Municipal Government

  • Farm Laborers

  • Certain Volunteers, Interns and apprentices

  • Taxicab drivers

  • Members of Religious Orders

  • Certain Individuals Working for Religious or Charitable institutions

  • Camp Counselors

  • Individuals Working for a Fraternity,Sorority, Student or Faculty Association

  • Part-time Baby Sitters 


If your employer has failed to pay you the overtime you’re entitled to, please click here to contact the Rochester Workers’ Center.


Legal Help

Members of the Rochester Workers’ Center have access to free legal advice. If you think you may have reason to sue your employer, click here to describe your problem and someone from the Rochester Workers’ Center will contact you.  


It’s illegal for your employer to sexually harass you, or to allow sexual harassment from co-workers to continue after you’ve complained about it to your boss.


Sexual harassment may include such things as:

  • unwanted sexual touching

  • requests for sexual favors

  • persistent sexual jokes

  • inappropriate and offensive sexual material on a bulletin board

Victims of sexual harassment may be men or women, straight or gay, queer or transgender.


If you’re a victim of sexual harassment at work, you can see a lawyer for free and get support from other workers through the Rochester Workers’ Center.  Click here to send us an email, and someone from the Rochester Workers’ Center will contact you.

Sexual Harassment



Workplace discrimination happens when an employer treats you differently and unfairly based on:


  • race

  • ethnicity

  • religion

  • gender

  • sexual orientation

  • disability

  • pregnancy

  • age


If you think you or your co-workers are the victims of workplace discrimination, email us by clicking here.


You have the right to work in a safe place that doesn't pose a risk to your health. If you’re injured on the job or get sick from working near toxic chemicals, you might be entitled to Workers’ Compensation benefits to cover medical expenses, and in some cases, partial payment of lost wages.


If you’re concerned that your workplace is unsafe for any reason, you have the right to take your concerns to the boss without retaliation.


The list of potential work hazards is nearly endless, but unsafe working conditions may include:


  • exposure to toxic chemicals

  • “speed ups” that result in injury

  • repetitive motion injuries

  • wet slippery floors

  • a lack of safety equipment, like floor mats or fire extinguishers

  • locked exits that prevent escape in the case of emergencies, such as fire or toxic fumes

  • workplace violence


If you’re worried that your workplace is unsafe, tell us about your concerns by clicking here.

Health & Safety


Immigrant Workers

Immigrant workers — documented and undocumented — have the same workplace rights as any other worker. Regardless of your immigration status, you have the right to:


  • receive minimum wage and overtime pay

  • work free of discrimination

  • file a complaint in court or with a government agency for unpaid wages or discrimination

  • join or form a union to bargain collectively with your employer


If you’re an immigrant and your employer is violating your rights but you’re afraid to speak up because you’re undocumented, the Rochester Workers’ Center may be able to help you. Click here to send us an email.


U.S. Federal law gives you the right to engage in “protected concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.”


That means you can’t be legally fired for supporting a union organizing campaign, but it means much more than that, because the laws apply whether or not you’re officially represented by a union.


According to U.S. labor law, “protected concerted activities” include:


  • two or more workers talking to their boss about higher wages

  • two or more employees discussing work-related issues other than pay, such as health and safety concerns

  • one employee speaking to an employer on behalf of one or more co-workers


If your right to work together as a group for better wages and working conditions has been violated, send us an email by clicking here.




Click on a topic below for assistance & information

Minimum Wage

There are now two different minimum wages in upstate New York: one for fast food workers, the other for everyone else.


How did that happen, and why do fast food workers have a higher minimum wage in New York?


The answer is simple: fast food workers got organized and started the Fight for 15 campaign. They got together to protest, form picket lines, and go on day-long strikes to demand higher wages — and it worked.


The minimum wage for fast food workers in upstate New York this year $10.75.

The minimum wage for everyone else this year is $9.70. 


Any boss who has failed to pay you the new, higher minimum wage for any work you’ve done since December 31, 2016, is committing wage theft.  If you’re a victim of wage theft and would like help from members of the Rochester Workers’ Center, click here. 


If you’re a fast food worker who would like to contact the Fight for $15 campaign, click here.

If you’re a farmworker who needs legal assistance or information in Spanish or English, call the New York Worker Justice Center in Rochester at (585) 325-3050.

Violence at Work

Whether the violence comes from your boss, a client, a customer, co-worker, or visitor, you have the right to be safe at work.


Violence in the workplace may range from verbal threats to physical assaults and even murder, which is the fourth leading cause of fatal occupational injuries in the United States.


If you or your co-workers have been victims of workplace violence or threats of violence, you can discuss the matter for free with an attorney through the Rochester Workers' Center and get support from other workers. Click here to contact the Rochester Worker Center for help.


In New York State, it’s illegal for employers to fire, penalize, discriminate, or retaliate against an employee for:

  • Making a complaint about a possible labor law violation to your employer

  • Making a complaint to the Labor Department

  • Providing information to the Labor Department

  • Testifying in an investigation or other proceeding under Labor Law

  • Discussing wages and working conditions with your co-workers

  • Encouraging your co-workers to attend a Workers’ Center event or form a union

  • Attending a Workers’ Center meeting or event to discuss wages and working conditions


Retaliation can take different forms, including:

  • A cut in pay

  • Being fired or demoted

  • Verbal harassment

  • “Taken off the schedule” for a day or longer without pay

  • Consistently given the most difficult tasks or clients as a punitive measure 

If your employer has retaliated against you for speaking up about your rights in the workplace, the Rochester Workers’ Center would like to hear from you. Send us an email by clicking here.



Workers' Comp

Workers' compensation is insurance that provides cash benefits and medical care for workers who are injured or become ill as a direct result of their job.


Your employer pays for workers’ compensation insurance and can't legally make you contribute to the cost of paying for it.


Weekly cash benefits and medical care are paid by the employer's insurance carrier as directed by the Workers' Compensation Board. The Workers' Compensation Board is a state agency that processes the claims. If Board intervention is necessary, it will determine whether that insurer will reimburse for cash benefits and/or medical care, and the amount they must pay.


In a workers' compensation case, no one party is determined to be at fault unless the injury  results solely from a worker’s intoxication from drugs or alcohol, or from a worker’s own act of violence.


If you can return to work but your injury prevents you from earning the same wages you once did, you may be entitled to a benefit that will make up two-thirds of the difference. You may also return to work in “light or alternate duty” before you’re fully healed.


If you have questions about workers compensation, or have filed for benefits and your employer is giving you trouble over it, send us an email by clicking here.


Rochester Workers' Center


(585) 831-4903

or (585) 454-9425


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