ALBANY, NY -- More than $35 million will be returned to 36,446 victims of wage theft in 2017, including $2.9 million for 2,727 Western New York workers, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Wednesday.

"We have zero tolerance for those who seek to rob employees out of an honest day's pay for an honest day's work," Cuomo said. "These workers are commonly among the most vulnerable members of the New York family and I want them to know this administration is and will continue to do everything in its power to protect them from these unscrupulous tactics and to ensure they are paid what they are owed."

The action is a result of a July 2016 Executive Order that established a permanent Joint Task Force on Employee Misclassification and Worker Exploitation. The Executive Order merged three existing multi-agency task forces to coordinate cross-agency efforts designed to protect workers in a variety of industries where victims of abuse do not come forward for fear of retaliation, many of whom are immigrants.

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In 2016, $34 million was returned to 27,420 wage theft victims, marking an increase of over $1.3 million returned to an additional 9,026 victims. Since Cuomo took office, the state has recovered and returned $258.4 million to 215,335 workers - the highest total in the nation.

"The New York State Department of Labor is committed to the protection of workers," said State Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon. "Under Governor Cuomo's leadership, we've taken unprecedented action to ensure that those who have wages stolen get what they're owed, and I applaud the dedicated investigators who have helped build New York's reputation as a national leader in the fight against wage theft."