EWEP Video

Protecting Essential Workers

The Wage and Hour Division is committed to protecting and enhancing the welfare of the nation’s workforce while prioritizing low wage, underserved workers, and essential workers, advancing equity, and strengthening strategic partnerships to safeguard the workplace rights afforded by the federal labor laws.


Back Wages for Blanca

Blanca worked at a gas station that was also a taqueria preparing food, taking orders and serving customers. Our initial investigation recovered overtime back wages for Blanca and her coworkers, but her employer then tried to use his influence over them to keep a portion of the back wages for himself.


Back Wages by Industry

We work hard to ensure working people in the U.S. receive the wages and protections they've earned and that their work is respected. The following back wages are from fiscal year 2022.

More than 32.5 Million for workers in health care
32.9 Million for workers in construction
More than 5.8 Million for agriculture workers
More than 7.4 Million for retail workers
More than 27.1 Million for workers in food service
9.9 Million for workers in building services


A Server’s Plea for Help Leads to $1.2 Million in Back Wages

Read about Diego Jimenez, who worked long hours as a server at La Carreta Mexican Restaurant in Derry, NH for over four years. Diego regularly worked over 50 hours a week, serving customers and cleaning the restaurant, but the only compensation he received for his hard work were the tips paid by restaurant patrons.


Essential Workers, Essential Protections

4000+ outreach events, 289000+ participants

Outreach and Webinars

Our outreach efforts have become more important as changing circumstances and the challenge of reopening our economy raise new concerns and unique questions relative to the worker protections enforced by our agency.

In fiscal year 2022, we conducted over 4,000 outreach events and reached over 289,000 participants.

Answering Your Call

Our work is fueled by our employees’ shared passion to serve you. If you have questions or if an employer has violated your workplace rights, please call 1-866-4-US-WAGE. We can provide assistance in over 200 languages and your information will be kept confidential.

In fiscal year 2022, we answered more than 913,000 calls.

More than 913,000 answered phone calls


Serving the Workers Who Serve Us

Ann came to the U.S. thinking she was pursuing a new and better life. She was recruited to work at Whispering Pines Inn, an Oklahoma bed and breakfast and restaurant. While at the inn, Ann’s duties included serving guests, cooking and cleaning for 70 or more hours per week. Her employers required that she live at the inn, and she was underpaid, in violation of federal law requiring minimum wage and overtime pay.




The FMLA: Essential for Mental Health-Friendly Workplaces

A great example of the value of FMLA comes from Trish, an academic adviser for college freshmen in West Virginia. Trish’s husband, Tom, was diagnosed with schizophrenia several years before he passed away in 2017. Tom was unable to drive, so Trish needed FMLA leave to take him to his appointments with doctors and counselors. According to Trish, FMLA provided the protections she needed to care for her husband while keeping her job and health insurance.


Workers Owed Wages

When we find violations, we often recover unpaid wages on behalf of employees. If we cannot find an employee, we hold their back wages for three years while we continue our efforts to locate them. After three years, if we remain unable to find the person, we are required to send the money to the U.S. Treasury.

In fiscal year 2022, we disbursed more than $9.1 million through the WOW system to more than 1,600 workers. See if you're due unpaid wages.


$1393 Average back wages for each employee

WHD investigations in fiscal year 2022 found, on average, $1,393 for each employee due back wages. For retail cashiers, that means more than three times what they would earn in a typical workweek. Imagine how challenging it would be if you weren’t compensated for three weeks of work. That’s the reality for many workers who don’t get paid what they have earned.


What Does $1,393 Mean

$1,393 represents multiple weekly paychecks to typical workers in many industries*

3.4 Weekly paychecks for maids, 2.8 weekly paychecks for janitors, 2.6 weekly paychecks for security guards, 3.5 weekly paychecks for retail, and 2.2 weekly paychecks for landscapers

(*based upon BLS data for median wage rates and weekly hours per occupation)


7+ Weeks of Groceries

3+ Months of Utilities

1+ Month of Rent

7+ Weeks of Childcare

(*based upon BLS data for median wage rates and weekly hours per occupation)

Detailed Views


Follow @WHD_DOL on Twitter for WHD news and resources.