The Wage and Hour Division, or WHD, is a federal office that enforces the basic minimum wage and overtime pay standards set by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). This act is overseen by the U.S. Department of Labor, and sets the criteria for overtime pay, minimum wage, recordkeeping, and youth employment for employees in both the public and private sectors.
What Types of Claims Does the Wage and Hour Division Handle?
The Wage and Hour Division handles a wide range of employment and labor claims, including disputes related to:
- Temporary Worker Protections: A temporary worker is someone foreign to the U.S., sponsored by a U.S.-based employer who verifies that they’ll be traveling to the country for employment purposes only. The WHD also handles migrant and immigrant worker issues.
- Federal Minimum Wage Compliance: The WHD will launch an investigation into non-compliant employers practices.
- Overtime Pay: Under the FLSA, an employer is required to pay an employee one and a half times their hourly wage for every hour worked over 40 hours in one week. An employer may try to change the days an employee works in order to avoid paying them overtime; this is prohibited under the FLSA.
- Recordkeeping: Employers must maintain records of hours, wages, and other wage items.
- Child Labor: The FLSA sets requirements for age, minimum wage, and types of work including job-related activities.
- Prevailing Wage Compliance in Public Works: A “prevailing wage” is the average wage paid to workers of a certain occupation in the locality. Those involved in federal contracts are required to pay the prevailing wage; the purpose of which is to deter the possibility of an unfair advantage in the bidding process for government contracts.
- Family and Medical Leave Act Claims: The Family and Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, provides eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid medical leave. It also requires that employers covered by FMLA preserve the health benefits for eligible workers as if they were still working.
- Wage Garnishment issues: Most garnishments are required by court order and occur when an individual’s earnings are withheld by an employer for the payment of a debt. Consumer credit protection is one example of a wage garnishment issue handled by the WHD.
- The Davis-Bacon and Related Acts: These acts require the payment of prevailing wage rates and fringe benefits on federally financed or assisted construction projects.
- The Service Contract Act: Similar to the Davis-Bacon Act, the Service Contract Act requires the payment of prevailing wage rates and fringe benefits, but on contracts to provide services to the federal government.
- The Contract Work Hours and Safety Standards Act: This act sets overtime standards for most federal service contracts and federally funded construction contracts.
- The Walsh-Healy Public Contracts Act: This act requires payment of minimum wage rates and overtime payment on federal contracts to manufacture or provide goods to the federal government.
Before pursuing legal action in court, an employee must first file a complaint with the Wage and Hour Division. Once a complaint is filed, the WHD will conduct an investigation and determine if there are any appropriate legal remedies (compensatory damages, restitution, punitive damages, etc). If the WHD ruling is unsatisfactory to the employee, they may request a right-to-sue letter for the right to bring the claim to court.
What if the WHD Can’t Solve My Issue?
The worker may still file a private lawsuit if the WHD is not able to successfully conduct an investigation into the allegations, or if their suggested remedies are not satisfactory and do not fully address the worker’s losses.
Additional documentation and evidence may be required by the court as support for the worker’s claims. In a private lawsuit, the remedies may include payment of back wages, punitive damages, and/or injunctive relief (an injunction is a court order that compels a party to take a specific action or refrain from doing something).
Should I Hire a Lawyer for a Wage and Hour Claim?
Wage and hour disputes are risky because they often involve serious losses for the worker. Although not required, employment lawyers can protect your job. Additionally, they can assist the worker in filing a complaint with the Wage and Hour Division.
If you have any inquiries or disputes involving wages, overtime pay, or other federal labor standards, you may want to consult with an experienced employment lawyer. A well qualified and licensed employment attorney can evaluate your claim and help you in Wage and Hour Division hearings and court proceedings.