Q. What worker protections can the Wage and Hour Division help me with?
A: The Wage and Hour Division enforces federal minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and child labor requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The division also enforces the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, the Employee Polygraph Protection Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, wage garnishment provisions of the Consumer Credit Protection Act, and a number of employment standards and worker protections as provided in several immigration related statutes. Additionally, the Wage and Hour Division administers and enforces the prevailing wage requirements of the Davis-Bacon and Related Acts and the Service Contract Act and other statutes applicable to federal contracts for construction and for the provision of goods and services. Learn more about the major laws administered and enforced by the Wage and Hour Division.
Q: I don’t think I’m being paid right. Can I file a complaint with the Wage and Hour Division?
A: Yes. While there are many workers that may be exempt from some provisions of the law, an employee covered by the FLSA who provides information that demonstrates the probability that they have not been paid the required federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour or overtime (1½ times the regular rate of pay for hours worked in excess of 40 in a work week) may file a complaint with the Wage and Hour Division.
Q: What If I'm not sure I want to file a complaint? Can I find out what my rights are?
A: You can call or visit any Wage and Hour Office to ask about the laws or file a complaint. You can also call our toll-free help line:
- Monday to Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. local time. Hours vary by region.
- Nights, Weekends, and Holidays: Calls answered by the DOL National Contact Center.
*If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or have a speech disability, please dial 7-1-1 to access telecommunications relay services. You may also call or visit the local office near you or send us an e-mail.
Q: Does it cost anything to file a complaint?
A: There are no charges to file a complaint or for the Wage and Hour Division to conduct an investigation. The Department of Labor is a federal agency and does not charge workers or employers for its services.
Q: I haven’t worked for this employer for a while. How long do I have to file a complaint?
A: The FLSA contains a two-year statute of limitations for non-willful violations and a three-year statute of limitations for willful violations. Generally, this means that we will look back over the past two years to determine whether there are any wages owed to employees. To ensure we can complete our investigation before the statute of limitations expires, employees should file complaints with the Wage and Hour Division as soon as possible.
Q: If I talk to someone at Wage and Hour, will it be confidential? I don’t want to lose my job or face retaliation.
A: All discussions with the Wage and Hour Division are confidential. All complaints are confidential; the name of the complainant and the nature of the complaint are not disclosed. The only exceptions are: when it is necessary to reveal a complainant's identity, with their permission, to pursue an allegation; or when the Wage and Hour Division is ordered to reveal information by a court. You can find additional information about the investigative process at Fact Sheet 44.
Workers who have filed complaints or provided information cannot be discriminated against or discharged on account of such activity. If adverse action is taken against a worker for engaging in protected activity, the affected worker or the Secretary of Labor may file suit for relief, including reinstatement to his/her job, payment of lost wages, and damages.
Q: What if I don’t have all of the information you need?
A: It is always helpful when workers can provide as much information as possible with their complaints. Here are a few suggestions about how you can help us:
- If you don’t have a permanent address: you can give us your cell phone number, or the number and address of a friend or family member who knows how to reach you.
- If you are not sure of the name of your employer: you can take a picture with a cell phone of any identifying information about any businesses at your worksite including any company names on the vehicle. If you get a paycheck, write down all the information on the check before you cash it. If you can, make a photocopy of the check or take a picture of it. Make a note of your job location by writing down the address.
- If there is no record of your hours or pay: you can start keeping one yourself. Every day you work, write down the time you start and the time you finish. Write down if you took time for a meal break and how long the break was. Write down every time you get paid, with the date and how much pay you received. You can call any Wage and Hour Office and ask them to send you free copies of our AWARE record keeping handbooks. You can get as many as you need; enough for you AND your co-workers.
If you have an Android phone or iPhone, you could also download our free DOL-Timesheet App to track your regular work hours, break times, and overtime hours.
Q: Some employees at my job are not documented to work. Is everyone who works entitled to the minimum wage?
A: The Wage and Hour Division enforces the law without regard to an employee’s immigration status. No employer should have an unfair advantage because it employs undocumented employees and doesn’t pay them. We will enforce pay for hours worked for all covered, non-exempt employees.
Q: Some people on my job don’t speak English and they want to talk to you.
A: Contact us. The Wage and Hour Division is a multilingual organization. We can communicate with callers in more than 200 languages.
Q: Can you help me with my vacation pay?
A: Generally, we cannot help you recover vacation pay or other benefits.
There are a number of employment practices which the FLSA does not regulate. For example, the FLSA does not require:
- vacation, holiday, severance, or sick pay
- meal or rest periods (other than breaks for nursing mothers)
- holidays off, or vacations
- premium pay for weekend or holiday work
- pay raises or fringe benefits
- a discharge notice, reason for discharge, or immediate payment of final wages to terminated employees
- pay stubs or "W-2"s.
The FLSA does not provide wage payment or collection procedures for an employee's usual or promised wages or for commissions in excess of those required by the FLSA. Also, the FLSA does not limit the number of hours in a day, or days in a week, an employee may be required or scheduled to work, including overtime hours, if the employee is at least 16 years old. However, some states do have laws covering some of these issues, such as meal or rest periods, or discharge notices.
The above matters, which are not covered by the FLSA, are generally by agreement between the employer and the employees or their authorized representatives.
If you worked on a federally funded construction, service or production contract, please contact us. We may be able to help with other labor requirements.
Q. Are there other agencies that can help me with my pay?
A: Yes, there are state labor agencies throughout the country that enforce state labor laws. Many of these agencies have relationships with the Wage and Hour Division that provide for data sharing, referrals, coordinated enforcement, joint outreach and compliance assistance. Visit our webpage to see a summary of state labor offices, minimum wage laws, child labor laws, and other state labor laws.
Q: Are investigators required to schedule investigations with employers?
A: No. The Wage and Hour Division does not require an investigator to previously announce the scheduling of an investigation, although in many instances the investigator will advise an employer prior to opening the investigation. The investigator has sufficient latitude to initiate unannounced investigations in many cases in order to directly observe normal business operations and develop factual information quickly. An investigator may also visit an employer to provide information about the application of, and compliance with, the labor laws administered by WHD.
Q: Why and how are employers selected for agency-initiated investigations?
A: The Wage and Hour Division conducts investigations for a number of reasons, all having to do with enforcement of the laws and assuring an employer’s compliance. We do not typically disclose the reason for an investigation. We regularly select certain types of businesses or industries for investigation. We target low-wage industries, for example, because of high rates of violations or egregious violations, the employment of vulnerable workers, or rapid changes in an industry, such as growth or decline. Occasionally, a number of businesses in a specific geographic area will be examined. The objective of targeted investigations is to improve compliance with the laws in those businesses, industries, or localities. Regardless of the particular reason that prompted the investigation, all investigations are conducted in accordance with established policies and procedures.
Q: What enforcement remedies are available under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)?
A: The FLSA gives the Department of Labor the authority to recover back wages and liquidated damages (to be paid to employees), and to assess civil money penalties (to be paid to the government), in instances of minimum wage, overtime, and other violations.
Q: What enforcement procedures are provided under the laws administered?
A: The Department of Labor makes every effort to ensure that employers are in compliance with the law. We are able to resolve most cases administratively. If appropriate, the Department of Labor may litigate and/or recommend criminal prosecution. Employers who have willfully violated the law may be subject to criminal penalties, including fines and imprisonment.