When New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio appointed Julie Menin to be the commissioner of the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, he had two main goals: reduce fines for businesses and educate New Yorkers about their consumer rights. It looks like both goals are being accomplished as of 2015, but the work isn’t done.

Menin sat with the AmNews last week and talked about her department’s latest work and gave updates on recent triumphs. Tasked with enforcing the new paid sick leave law, Menin said there have been 406 complaints docketed so far.

“And these complaints are coming from employees … and as you remember, paid sick leave applies to over a million employees so it has a very broad reach,” said Menin. “Of those 406 complaints, the great news is that we have been able to mediate the vast majority or are in the process of mediating them. A few we are not going to be able to mediate because they threatened retaliation or the employer has not been compliant.”

Menin started her career as a consumer protection lawyer and eventually ran her own small business called Vine, a restaurant, marketing and catering operation. She knows what it’s like to be on both sides of the fence, and that’s why she’s hoping to better communication between the city and small business owners.

“The mayor was extremely focused when he was public advocate on the need to reduce fines for small businesses,” said Menin. “So when he brought me on as commissioner of the Department of Consumer Affairs, one of the things he was very clear about was the need to reduce these fines. And I couldn’t agree more because my perspective comes as a former small business owner. I know firsthand how difficult it could be if you’re fined for things that are not warranted. So we have truly turned it around at DCA, and we did it by introducing 24 different reforms to reduce fines.”

According to Menin, fines have been reduced by $5 million this fiscal year. How did they do it?

“We reduced the number of violations,” said Menin. “Businesses now have the chance, if they have signage violations, to cure the violation first. They have 30 days to cure. That’s $5 million going back into the pockets of small business owners to hire staff, market, promote and help the business.” Some of this is a part of de Blasio’s Small Business First initiative, which helps owners and city government improve communication between each other to avoid unnecessary violations and fines.

In the past, agencies would come out and see if a refund policy was posted prominently at every single cash register. The owner would then receive numerous fines if there weren’t. Now, Menin and the department are giving the owners a chance to correct the mistake it before doling out punishment.

But that’s not the only thing the Consumer Affairs Department has developed when it comes to small business owners, especially those from immigrant communities.

“For the first time, we’re doing all inspections in the language of their choice,” said Menin. “So inspectors have a laminated card and the owners can just point to whichever language displayed on the card that they want the inspection done in. We want them to understand our rules and regulations. For the first time ever, we put our inspector checklist—of the 41 different categories we inspect—online also in different languages,” said Menin.

But small businesses aren’t the only areas receiving help from the Consumer Affairs Department. According to Menin, consumer restitution is up 85 percent when compared with this point last year. Much of that has to do with a launching of what she called “aggressive investigations” in places such as employment agencies, auto-financing and payday loans.

“We released 200 subpoenas to used car dealers because we believe they are putting recalled cars back on the market,” said Menin. She said there were 34.5 million recalled cars in the first six months of 2014; more than any other year on record. The Consumer Affairs Department is also investigating Santander Bank in regards to alleged predatory auto financing.

“We focus on the used car industry because it’s usually the single biggest purchase a working-class family will make,” Menin said.

The department also won a settlement on behalf of 4,600 New Yorkers against National Credit Adjusters after they tried to collect on payday loans, which are illegal in New York. Some of the loans had interest in excess of 700 percent.

“Our settlement involves barring them from operating as a debt collection entity for six years in New York and consumer restitution,” said Menin. “We remain very vigilant. We look at advertisement that debt collectors take out. We license debt collectors, so it gives us incredible authority [to investigate accusations of wrong doing].”

There’s much more on Menin’s plate, including dealing with complaints about home improvement contractors and notifying New Yorkers who are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit during tax season, but she believes that the department is being proactive in their process.

“One of the biggest differences in approach is outreach,” said Menin. In July, the department led a “day of action” where volunteers at subway stations handed out fliers and got #PaidSickLeave to trend as a topic on the social media website Twitter that day.

“With community boards … in the last six months, we have gone to all 59 community boards three times with three different presentations,” said Menin. “I want us to be proactive. I want us be talking to New Yorkers every day.”