National Consumers League

Worker Rights

Worker Rights

Wage Theft: You're a victim. Now what?

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Are you getting paid less than you deserve? Do you suspect you are? Learn who can help you get back what you are owed.

 

 

Who to turn to: U.S. Department of Labor

The U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division (WHD) is responsible for administering and enforcing some of the nation's most important worker protection laws. WHD is committed to ensuring that workers in this country are paid properly and for all the hours they work, regardless of immigration status.

If you have questions or concerns, you can contact WHD at 1-866-487-9243 or visit www.wagehour.dol.gov. You will be directed to the nearest WHD office for assistance. There are over 200 WHD offices throughout the country with trained professionals to help you.

File a complaint

The information below is useful to file a complaint with WHD:

  • Your name
  • Your address and phone number (how you can be contacted)
  • The name of the company where you work(ed)
  • Location of the company (this maybe different from where you worked)
  • Phone number of the company
  • Manager or owners name (who should we ask to speak to?)
  • Type of work you did
  • How and when you were paid (i.e., cash or check, every Friday)

 

Any additional information that you can provide such as copies of pay stubs, personal records of hours worked, or other information on your employers pay practices are helpful.

All DOL services are free and confidential, whether you are documented or not. Please remember that your employer cannot terminate you or in any other manner discriminate against you for filing a complaint with WHD.

State Departments of Labor/Employment

Most states have a Department of Labor or Department of Employment who are responsible for enforcing the labor laws of the state. Please look up you state’s Department of Labor/Employment to see the necessary steps needed to report a labor or wage violation.

Back Pay

A common remedy for wage violations is an order that the employer make up the difference between what the employee was paid and the amount he or she should have been paid. The amount of this sum is often referred to as "back pay." Among other Department of Labor programs, back wages may be ordered in cases under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) on the various federal contract labor statutes.

Listed below are methods with which the FLSA provides for recovering unpaid minimum and/or overtime wages:

 

  • The Wage and Hour Division may supervise payment of back wages.
  • The Secretary of Labor may bring suit for back wages and an equal amount as liquidated damages.
  • An employee may file a private suit for back pay and an equal amount as liquidated damages, plus attorney's fees and court costs.
  • The Secretary of Labor may obtain an injunction to restrain any person from violating the FLSA, including the unlawful withholding of proper minimum wage and overtime pay.

 

An employee may not bring suit under the FLSA if he or she has been paid back wages under the supervision of the Wage and Hour Division or if the Secretary of Labor has already filed suit to recover the wages.

Back wages also are available for underpayments to employees under the Davis-Bacon and Related Acts and the Service Contract Act, among other laws enforced and administered by the Wage and Hour Division.

Limitations of Back Pay

Generally, a two-year statute of limitations applies to the recovery of back pay. In the case of willful violations, a three-year statute of limitations applies.

For more information regarding wage theft services please contact the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division at www.wagehour.dol.gov or the US Department of Labor We Can Help at www.dol.gov/wecanhelp and/or call the toll-free information and helpline, available 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in your time zone, 1-866- 4USWAGE (1-866-487-9243).

Source – U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division