US Department of Labor spotlights employer readiness, new resources, rights of workers during Disaster Preparedness Month
BOSTON – With menacing weather and severe storms a danger in late summer and fall, the U.S. Department of Labor urges workers and employers who clear debris, repair homes or perform other types of disaster recovery to use its Wage and Hour Division’s online resources, including a new Natural Disaster Compliance Assistance Toolkit, to ensure they are familiar with federal laws governing wages, hours of work and pay practices.
Even when disaster strikes, worker protections apply. Employers must ensure they can maintain accurate records and pay wages as due. Workers are particularly vulnerable during times of crisis and the failure to comply with federal labor laws harms them and their families.
“The U.S. Department of Labor works tirelessly to ensure that workers who respond in times of crisis, to help communities recover from devastating storms, are paid all of their legally earned wages and benefits,” explained Wage and Hour Regional Administrator Mark Watson in Philadelphia. “Additionally, we stand ready to equip employers with the information and guidance they need to prevent violations, which are often costly.”
From October 2017 to June 2022, the department’s Wage and Hour Division conducted more than 900 investigations related to recovery from natural disasters. Those cases yielded more than $62 million in wages recovered for more than 45,000 workers. During that same time, the division hosted more than 1,200 outreach events for disaster recovery employers, employees and stakeholders, totaling more than 75,000 participants.
Following the devastation of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the Wage and Hour Division’s Northeast Region conducted 230 investigations and recovered more than $50,000,000 in back wages for 32,000 employees engaged in recovery work in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
These investigations disclosed violations under several laws enforced by the Wage and Hour Division, including failures to pay minimum wage and overtime as required by the Fair Labor Standards Act, health and welfare fringe benefits as required by the McNamara-O’Hara Service Contract Act, prevailing wage rates as required by the Davis Bacon and Related Acts, and overtime compensation as required by the Contract Works Hours and Safety Standards Act.
The division is committed to strong enforcement of workplace protections for disaster recovery workers nationwide and is eager to collaborate with federal partners to offer presentations on Natural Disaster Preparedness Compliance in the Workplace. Please join us on Sept. 8, 2022, at 1 p.m. EDT for a panel conversation with federal agencies and worker advocates about efforts and resources available to support workers affected by disasters. Capacity is limited, so register early. Additionally, stakeholders may access information and resources on the Wage and Hour Division website and on social media.
If you are a storm recovery worker who thinks you may be owed wages, you can search the Wage and Hour Division’s Workers Owed Wages website.
For more information about workers’ rights and other employee rights enforced by the division, contact the toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243). Workers can call the Wage and Hour Division confidentially with questions, and the department can speak with callers in more than 200 languages.
Download the agency’s new Timesheet App for android devices to ensure hours and pay are accurate.