New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood filed suit on Monday against the U.S. Department of Labor for not responding to a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by her office in April.
The lawsuit alleges that the federal agency has not responded to Underwood’s request for information on a new federal pilot program created to simplify payment of back wages owed by employers in accordance with the Fair Labor Standards Act without going through litigation.
Underwood was concerned the program, called the Payroll Audit Independent Determination program, would be bad for workers’ rights because it allows employers to evade prosecution and penalties for wage theft violations under state labor laws, which are stricter than federal laws, according to a press release from Underwood’s office.
“The PAID program is nothing more than a get-out-of-jail-free card for predatory employers,” Underwood said in a statement. “New York workers have a right to know why the secretary of labor decided to let employers off the hook when they don’t pay their workers. The Labor Department failed to provide required information—so we’re taking them to court to get the information to which we are legally entitled.”
Underwood’s office filed the FOIA request on April 11 for information on the program, including but not limited to agency records on the implementation of the PAID program and any communications the Department of Labor has had with employers. The federal agency has yet to respond to the request, Underwood’s office said, which was required within 20 business days of the April filing.
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on Monday. The case is being handled by Assistant Attorney General Kevin Lynch, under the supervision of Labor Bureau Civil Enforcement Section Chief Mayur Saxena.
The Department of Labor did not immediately comment on the litigation.