Workers in New Jersey have several methods of asserting their rights under federal, state, and local employment laws. While retaining the services of an employment law attorney offers an individual the best opportunity to work with an experienced professional through all of the steps of the legal process, certain government agencies sometimes pursue civil claims against employers on employees’ behalf. The Wage and Hour Division (WHD) of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently announced that it is holding a substantial sum of money obtained in enforcement actions against employers around the country, including more than $7 million owed to nearly 10,000 New Jersey workers that remains unclaimed.
The DOL’s regional office in Philadelphia announced in mid-August 2015 that the WHD is holding $7,157,792 obtained from New Jersey private-sector employers, mostly through settlement agreements. This money constitutes back pay owed to 9,953 employees. The WHD and other agencies are often able to notify workers of the availability of money obtained through an enforcement action. If an individual has moved out of state, changed their name through marriage, or even just switched jobs, however, the agency may not be able to locate them.
A website maintained by the DOL entitled “Workers Owed Wages,” or simply “WOW,” includes a search function that allows workers to see if the DOL has collected money from their employer. They may then search their own name to see if they are entitled to payment. The site has reportedly helped people around the country claim over $800,000–a small amount in comparison to the amount that remains unclaimed in New Jersey alone. If money remains unclaimed for three years after collection, the U.S. Treasury can keep it.
A large amount of the funds currently held by the WHD were recovered in actions for violations of the minimum wage and overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. The FLSA requires covered employers to pay non-exempt workers time-and-a-half for any amount of time worked over 40 hours in a week. 29 U.S.C. § 207(a). Since 2010, the federal minimum wage has been $7.25 per hour. 29 U.S.C. § 206(a)(1)(C). New Jersey state law has similar provisions regarding overtime pay, but the state Wage and Hour Law sets the statewide minimum wage at $8.38 per hour as of the beginning of 2015. N.J. Rev. Stat. § 34:11-56a, N.J.A.C. § 12:56-3.1(a).
One of the largest settlements included in the sum held by the WHD for New Jersey included $360,000 in back pay from two ship-repair companies located in Bayonne. One company had a contract with the federal government to repair ships for the Navy and Coast Guard, and it subcontracted the other company. Because of their status as government contractors, the WHD pursued them under the Walsh-Healey Public Contracts Act (PCA), 41 U.S.C. § 6502, 41 C.F.R. § 50-201.1, instead of the FLSA. The PCA requires contractors to abide by the minimum wage and overtime provisions of the FLSA, even if they would not otherwise be subject to its jurisdiction. The DOL says about two-thirds of the total settlement amount, $240,000, remains unclaimed.
The Resnick Law Group’s wage violations lawyers represent employees in New Jersey and New York in wage and hour claims and other employment law matters. Contact us online, at 973-781-1204, or at (646) 867-7997 today to schedule a confidential consultation with a member of our team.
More Blog Posts:
New Federal Regulation Requires Businesses to Disclose CEO-to-Employee Pay Ratios, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, August 27, 2015
New Laws Require Employers in Some New Jersey Cities to Provide Paid Sick Leave to Employees, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, August 6, 2015
The Distinction Between an “Employee” and an “Independent Contractor” is Critical in New Jersey Employment Law Claims, The New Jersey Employment Law Firm Blog, May 22, 2015