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Paterson to sign wage protection bill

ALBANY — Gov. David A. Paterson is set to sign into law today tougher penalties on bosses who illegally withhold workers’ pay, though it won’t affect wages this holiday season.

The new law allows a court or the Labor Department to force employers to pay back wages plus another 100 percent in damages, up from 25 percent currently. It takes effect in 120 days.

The National Employment Law Project, based on a worker survey, estimates New York City employers shortchange their low-wage workers, including those in the retailing and restaurant businesses, by almost $1 billion a year.

The state Labor Department reports recovering and disbursing a record $28.8 million to nearly 18,000 people whose wages were illegally underpaid last year.