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Workers push for enhanced wage protections

ALBANY — Supporters are making a last-minute push for New York’s Legislature to toughen penalties for employers that illegally withhold workers’ wages.

The lawmakers are trying to reconcile two bills with time running out in a scheduled one-day session Monday.

The Assembly and Senate have each passed measures to increase damages when wages aren’t paid. The bills would allow a court or the Labor Department to force employers to pay back wages plus another 100 percent to 200 percent.

Other provisions would require keeping payroll records for six years.

The Labor Department reported recovering a record $28.8 million for nearly 18,000 New York workers in 2009.

One survey indicates low wage workers in New York City are shorted $1 billion a year.