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Recover Unpaid Wages

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Recover Unpaid Wages – Workers Owed Wages

This summer the federal government launched an online tool called Workers Owed Wages (“WOW”) to help thousands of workers to recover unpaid wages.

The United States Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (“WHD”) investigates violations of minimum wage and overtime laws by employers. When the WHD finds violations – such as an employer paying its workers less than $7.25 per hour or not paying time-and-a-half for working more than 40 hours in one week – the government often may recover unpaid wages on behalf of these employees. In 2014, the WHD recovered over $240 million owed to more than 270,000 workers nationwide.

In many circumstances, it is easy for the WHD to distribute the recovered wages to the rightful employees.  But employees in certain sectors of the economy (like agriculture and fast food) are often more difficult to track down because their employment is temporary, seasonal, or short-lived, which is why the WHD developed WOW.  A worker who believes that he or she is owed back wages collected by the WHD may search the database to recover unpaid wages by answering a series of simple questions in English or Spanish to find out if the government is holding unpaid wages collected on the worker’s behalf.

The WHD reports that “[I]n California alone, there are approximately $14 million dollars waiting to be collected by some 21,000 workers.  And there are many millions of dollars in back wages still waiting to be collected by workers nationwide.”

Since its launch earlier this year, WOW helped workers to recover unpaid wages totaling more than $800,000.

Workers should check the WOW database sooner rather than later because, after three years, the law requires WHD to send the uncollected money to the U.S. Treasury, where it can be spent by the government.

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