ALBANY - Gov. David A. Paterson yesterday signed into law tougher penalties for bosses who illegally withhold workers' pay, though opponents said the measure will make it harder to do business in New York.

The new law allows a court or the Labor Department to force employers to pay back wages plus an equal amount in damages, up from 25 percent currently. It expands some existing statutes, including provisions dealing with employer retaliation against workers who file complaints about them.

Violations often go unreported, Paterson said. "If you speak up, you're likely to get fired," he said.

The law won't affect employers this holiday season; it takes effect in April.

It permits third-party complaints and adds threats to the list of illegal retaliatory measures by employers or others. It adds officers of limited-liability companies and partnerships to the list of employers who can be punished. Violations can result in public notices posted at businesses for 90 days.

Before the Assembly passed the bill 82-40 two weeks ago, some Republican lawmakers said it was anti-business. Rick Sampson, president of the New York State Restaurant Association, said his group wrote to Paterson opposing the bill.

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