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Vega v CM & Assoc. Constr. Mgt., LLC

Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division, First Department

September 10, 2019, Decided; September 10, 2019, Entered

9733, 23559/16E

Opinion

 [**287]   [*1144]  Order, Supreme Court, Bronx County (Ruben Franco, J.), entered May 15, 2018, which denied defendant's motion to dismiss the complaint, unanimously affirmed, without costs.

Plaintiff alleges that she was employed by defendant from approximately May of 2014 to September of 2015 as a manual laborer, and that, during that time, she was paid her wages on a biweekly basis, in violation of Labor Law § 191(1)(a), ] which requires weekly payment of manual workers. Plaintiff seeks to  [*1145]  recover liquidated damages, as well as interest and reasonable attorney's fees, pursuant to Labor Law § 198(1-a), ] which applies to "wage claims based upon violations of one or more of the substantive provisions of Labor Law article 6" (Gottlieb v Kenneth D. Laub & Co., 82 NY2d 457, 459, 626 N.E.2d 29, 605 N.Y.S.2d 213 [1993]).

] The purpose of section 198(1-a) is "enhancing enforcement of the Labor Law's substantive wage enforcement provisions" (id. at 463; see generally Pachter v Bernard Hodes Group, Inc., 10 NY3d 609, 615, 891 N.E.2d 279, 861 N.Y.S.2d 246 [2008]), and contrary to defendant's argument that § 198 provides remedies only in the event of nonpayment or partial payment of wages (but not in the event of late payment of wages), the plain language of the statute indicates [***2]  that individuals may bring suit for any "wage claim" against an employer. The remedies provided by section 198(1-a) apply to "violations of article 6" (Gottlieb, 82 NY2d at 463),  [**288]  and section 191(1)(a) is a part of article 6.

Contrary to defendant's argument, the term underpayment encompasses the instances where an employer violates the frequency requirements of section 191(1)(a) but pays all wages due before the commencement of an action. ] "In the absence of any controlling statutory definition, we construe words of ordinary import with their usual and commonly understood meaning, and in that connection have regarded dictionary definitions as useful guideposts' in determining the meaning of a word or phrase" (Rosner v Metropolitan Prop. & Liab. Ins. Co., 96 NY2d 475, 479-480, 754 N.E.2d 760, 729 N.Y.S.2d 658 [2001]). ] The word underpayment is the noun for the verb underpay; underpay is defined as "to pay less than what is normal or required" (Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary 1364 [11th ed 2012]). The moment that an employer fails to pay wages in compliance with section 191(1)(a), the employer pays less than what is required.

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175 A.D.3d 1144 *; 107 N.Y.S.3d 286 **; 2019 N.Y. App. Div. LEXIS 6464 ***; 2019 NY Slip Op 06459 ****; 2019 WL 4264384

 [****1]  Irma Vega, etc., Plaintiff-Respondent, v CM and Associates Construction Management, LLC, Defendant-Appellant.

Notice: THE LEXIS PAGINATION OF THIS DOCUMENT IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE PENDING RELEASE OF THE FINAL PUBLISHED VERSION.

 THIS OPINION IS UNCORRECTED AND SUBJECT TO REVISION BEFORE PUBLICATION IN THE OFFICIAL REPORTS.

Prior History: Vega v. CM & Assoc., Constr. Mgt. Ltd. Liab. Co., 2018 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 1921 (N.Y. Sup. Ct., May 14, 2018)

CORE TERMS

wages, violations, liquidated damages, commencement of the action, private right of action, bring suit, remedies, manual, pays, liquidated damages provision, legislative purpose, legislative scheme, partial payment, late payment, wage claim, labor law, Dictionary, nonpayment, provisions, underpay, deter

Business & Corporate Compliance, Labor & Employment Law, Wage & Hour Laws, Wage Payments, Labor & Employment Law, Remedies, Damages, Governments, Legislation, Interpretation, Defenses, Damages, Liquidated Damages