ALBANY The state Department of Labor doesn't complete many of its wage theft investigations in a timely manner, and thousands of cases went unresolved for a year or more, a state audit Friday said.
Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said wage theft cases, such as the illegal holding of wages or denial of benefits to a worker by an employer, haven't been thoroughly reviewed by the labor department.
"It is imperative that DOL do a better job resolving wage theft cases as workers across New York are often waiting too long for the compensation they rightly deserve," DiNapoli said in a statement.
Auditors found that, as of August 2013, the labor department had more than 17,000 open cases, an increase of about 150 percent from the 7,000 cases on hand at the start of 2008.
The current caseload includes about 9,300 active investigations and more than 7,800 cases pending payment, the audit said. Almost 75 percent were at least one year old.
DiNapoli charged that the backlog stems from system and "process deficiencies that hinder timely investigations, coupled with a limited number of staff to perform the growing amount of work." He offered a number of recommendations to the agency to improve its handling of cases.
There was no immediate comment from the Labor Department.
But in a news release earlier Friday, the agency touted improved efficiency. It said that $12.7 million in back wages, interest and damages has been recovered for more than 14,000 workers in just the first four months this year.
"This is money that these workers rightfully earned," said Labor Commissioner Peter Rivera in a statement. "We are enforcing the law to make sure that businesses pay workers the wages to which they are entitled. If a business is breaking the law, it will pay up."