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How To Report Wage and Hour Violations

Claims of wage theft are increasing. States and federal agencies have recovered billions in unpaid wages. Employees denied minimum wage and overtime pay can recover compensation by reporting wage and hour violations, but most wage theft cases go unreported.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is a federal law that requires minimum wage and overtime pay. Employers must pay at least the federal minimum wage and time and a half overtime pay for employees working more than 40 hours a week. If an employer fails to meet these requirements, an employee or third-party complaint can result in workers receiving back pay for the wages they were wrongly denied.

Why File a Wage and Hour Violation Report?

If you haven't received minimum wage or overtime pay and are an employee covered by the FLSA, you may consider filing a wage complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). As of October 2023, the federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. However, many states have state minimum wage requirements higher than the federal minimum. An employer is responsible for paying whichever minimum wage is highest.

Similarly, the FLSA requires that employers pay time and a half overtime when an employee works more than 40 hours in a work week. For example, a worker making $9 an hour and working 50 hours a week should get overtime pay for the 10 hours they worked beyond 40 hours that week. In this case, overtime pay must be at least one and a half times the hourly rate, or $13.50 an hour.

Employees who recover back wages include cashiers whose overtime hours aren't accurately reported on their paycheck and cooks paid less than minimum wage. Workers paid lump sums who worked many hours have recovered when their hourly rate didn't meet the minimum wage. In some cases, employees misclassified as independent contractors and denied overtime pay have recovered compensation.

Filing a Wage and Hour Complaint

If you have been denied proper wages under the FLSA, you may file a complaint by mail, in person at an office of the Wage and Hour Division (WHD) of the Department of Labor, or using an online form. The Wage and Hour Division enforces many of the nation's federal labor laws. Complaints are confidential.

The Labor Department has a toll-free number for information, questions, and concerns.

Third parties can file complaints for an employee denied proper wages.

Immigration status is not important. Undocumented workers can file complaints over federal wage law and wage payment violations.

Information Needed for Wage and Hour Complaint

You will need to include the following information in the complaint:

  • Your contact information, including personal information such as name, address, and phone number
  • The employer's name, address, phone number, and type of business
  • The job title and description of work done
  • Pay information, including pay stubs, how much the employee is paid, the method of payment, and how often wages are paid
  • A description of the alleged violations
  • Dates of the violations

After a complaint form is filed, the WHD reviews the information and conducts an investigation. The WHD will contact the complainant if more information is needed.

No Retaliation or Discrimination for Filing a Labor Department Complaint

Employers cannot retaliate against you for complaining. An employer can't fire or otherwise discriminate against a worker participating in a legal proceeding under the FLSA.

Statute of Limitations for Wage Claims

The earlier you file a complaint, the better. The FLSA has a two-year deadline for non-willful labor law violations. The agency has a three-year deadline for willful violations. The WHD recommends filing no later than 18 months after the violation occurred.

The statutes of limitations for state laws vary, but reporting a violation as early as possible is often recommended.

State Laws Wage Protections

Many states have additional protections for workers, including higher minimum wages and overtime pay for any day's work beyond eight hours. Wage and hour complaints over the same incident are often filed with DOL and a state labor department.

Other Laws Handled by the Labor Department

The FLSA isn't the only statute the Labor Department enforces. The federal agency investigates violations of several other federal employment and labor laws. Those laws include:

  • Family and Medical Leave Act
  • Employee Polygraph Protection Act
  • Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act
  • Consumer Credit Protection Act (wage garnishment provisions)

Other types of complaints

The Labor Department isn't the only federal agency that handles employment-related complaints. For instance, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigates and enforces working conditions and workplace safety laws. If you have a question or concern about these matters, you should reach out to OSHA.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) handles civil rights and workplace discrimination matters. If you need to file a discrimination complaint, contact the EEOC.

Have Specific Questions About How To Report Wage and Hour Violations? Ask a Lawyer

A skilled lawyer can help you understand your rights under state and federal wage and overtime laws and can help you pursue wages that have been wrongly withheld. If you have questions about your wages and hourly pay, contact an experienced employment attorney to discuss your situation.

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