Ask Amy: Can my boss do that?

Amy Davis answers your FAQ regarding worker rights

More than 100 Kingwood-area restaurant employees are getting backpay after the U.S. Department of Labor discovered their employer failed to pay them overtime. In some cases, they were not even paid the legal minimum wage. We are looking into common questions regarding worker rights including how to know if you have money owed from a previous employer, or what to do if you think your employer is not paying you the right amount.

Employees not paid fair amount

The federal minimum wage is just $7.25 an hour. The Department of Labor said Sharky’s American Grill deducted pay from 66 employees’ wages for uniforms they had to wear at work. That caused their pay rate to fall below minimum wage for all of the hours they worked. The Department of Labor says the restaurant failed to pay another 81 workers the correct overtime rate.

In total Sharky’s had to pay back $47,000 to those employees.

Ask Amy: Amy Davis answers questions about worker rights. (Copyright 2023 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

“People employed by the restaurant industry often work long hours to support themselves and their families. They have the right to be paid all of their earned wages,” said (Department of Labor) Wage and Hour Division Acting District Director Nicole Sellers. “Companies are obligated to pay employees their full legally earned wages and must understand their legal responsibilities. Trained Wage and Hour professionals are available to assist employers who are unsure of regulations to avoid compliance issues.”

Sellers joined Amy for an episode of Ask Amy to talk about this case and in general, worker rights. She says failure to pay overtime is the most common complaint they hear from employees.

“Employees are not getting paid time and a half of the hours above 40 (hours). And that presents itself in many different ways,” said Nicole Sellers, Department of Labor. “Now we look at whether or not the employer is covered and they’re subject to the federal labor laws because there are some businesses that are not. Depending on the size of the business.”

Workers who feel they may not be getting the wages they earned may contact a Wage and Hour Division representative in their state through a list and interactive online map on the agency’s website.

How to know if you have money owed to you from previous employer

In some instances, the employer will pay to try to locate employees to get the back wages paid in the event that they’re unable to locate them.

“They will send that the payment to the Department of Labor and then we will take over trying to locate them. They get their back wages to them,” said Sellers.

When the Wage and Hour Division finds labor law violations, the DOL often gets unpaid wages on behalf of workers. If they cannot locate these employees, they hold their back wages while they continue to look for them. After three years, if they are still unable to find the person owed back wages, they are required to send the money to the U.S. Treasury.

If you think you may be owed back wages collected by the DOL office, you can search the database of workers who have money waiting to be claimed. If you find that you are due money, you can submit a claim.

Check: Workers Owed Wages website.

How to file a complaint against employer

The Wage and Hour Division is responsible for enforcing some of the nation’s most comprehensive federal labor laws. The workers who are protected by these laws can file complaints and all tips are confidential. The name of the complainant, the nature of the complaint, and whether a complaint exists may not be disclosed. An employer cannot retaliate against a worker for exercising their rights, filing a complaint or cooperating with an investigation.

How to know if you are being paid the right amount: Workers and employers alike can help ensure hours worked and pay are accurate by downloading the department’s Android Timesheet App for free.

Watch the full Ask Amy episode on worker rights here.

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About the Authors:

Passionate consumer advocate, mom of 3, addicted to coffee, hairspray and pastries.

Award-winning TV producer and content creator. My goal as a journalist is to help people. Faith and family motivate me. Running keeps me sane.