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How To Report Wage Theft

How To Report Wage Theft

While estimates on the subject are spotty, no sane researcher would deny that millions of hard-working Americans are victimized by wage theft every week. The vast majority of US employees have a legal right to make at least the minimum wage, along with overtime pay, but lots of people don’t. Employers routinely withhold earned wages from their workers, breaking state and federal laws in the process.

Who You Can Report Wage Theft To

Think you’re not being paid correctly? Here’s who can help you do something about it.

1. The Department of Labor’s Wage & Hour Division

First off, you can call the federal government – a natural choice since the Fair Labor Standards Act, which mandates a national minimum wage and overtime pay, is a federal law. The Department of Labor’s Wage & Hour Division has been tasked with enforcing the FLSA, so they’re a good place to start.

WARNING: Filing a complaint with the Department of Labor invalidates your right to file a civil lawsuit. If you file with the federal government, you will lose the right to pursue your back wages in court.

To file a formal complaint, you’ll have to get in touch with your local Wage & Hour Division District Office. There are over 200 of these offices throughout the US, but not every state has one. If there isn’t a Wage and Hour District Office in your state, contact the office closest to you. Workers in Alaska, for example, should call the District Office in Seattle, Washington; workers in Delaware should contact Philadelphia’s office; workers in Maine should call the office in Manchester, New Hampshire, and so on.

Here’s a list of every Wage & Hour Office in the country, but before you call, make sure you’ve gathered together the following information, which will make it easy for the government to process your claim:

  • your name
  • your address and phone number
  • the name of the company where you work or used to work
  • the type of work that you did
  • how and when you were paid
  • where the company is based
  • the phone number for the company
  • the company’s manager or owner

If you have any additional information, like paystubs or a personal record of the hours you worked, collect those, too. Filing a complaint through the Department of Labor is free and confidential. Plus, no one at the Wage & Hour Division cares about your documentation status; they won’t even ask.

2. Your State Department Of Labor

The federal Department of Labor is in charge of enforcing the requirements set out in the Fair Labor Standards Act. That federal laws say you, along with 130 million other American workers, must be paid at least a minimum hourly wage of $7.25 per hour and premium wages for any hours worked over 40 in one week.

But lots of state laws have even more generous provisions, entitling workers to higher minimum wages and more expansive overtime rights. In some cases, an employer can fulfill the federal wage and hour law’s requirements, but violate the state law’s requirements at the same time.

Separating State From Federal Law

Take Patrick, who does yard work in California. Patrick’s employer pays him $8.50 per hour, which is higher than the Fair Labor Standards Act’s requirement of $7.25. California’s state minimum wage, however, is actually $10 per hour – so Patrick’s employer is breaking state law, but not federal law. Patrick should call the California Department of Industrial Relations to report his employer’s illegal activity and pursue his back wages.

Be sure to understand your state’s wage and hour laws, then decide which level of government, state or federal, you need to contact.

Finding Your State’s Reporting Instructions

Every state’s wage theft reporting requirements will be a little different. Some offices just ask workers to call, while others want you to fill out forms and send them in the mail. At times, the instructions can be complicated. If you ever get confused, just call and ask for help.

WARNING: The vast majority of states do not allow you to file both a formal complaint and a civil lawsuit for back wages. If you file a complaint with the state’s department of labor, it’s almost certain that you will forfeit the right to sue your employer privately. Likewise, filing a civil lawsuit generally precludes your ability to file a complaint with the state.

To find the wage violation reporting instructions and forms for your state, follow one of the links below. Note that most states, but not all, allow workers to file claims over any work actually performed in that state, whether or not the employer is based in that state.

Alabama

Alabama doesn’t enforce wage and hour requirements, according to WorkplaceFairness.org, unless you haven’t been paid for your work at all.

For almost all minimum wage and overtime claims, the state’s Department of Labor defers to the federal government. So should you. If your wage rights have been violated in Alabama, contact the US Department of Labor immediately.

Alaska

With a state minimum wage of $9.80 per hour, Alaska’s Labor Department helps in-state workers collect unpaid wages from three offices: one in Anchorage, another in Juneau and a third in Fairbanks. To file a claim, you’ll have to fill out this form and return it to the nearest office.

Arizona

Currently, Arizona’s Industrial Commission, which enforces wage and hour laws in the state, only handles claims in which:

  • the amount of back wages owed is $5,000 or less and
  • the amount of time in question is one year or less.

Usually, the state only investigates claims of completely unpaid wages. If all three of those conditions are met, the Industrial Commission will likely accept and investigate a worker’s case.

If you want to file a claim for non-payment of wages in Arizona, complete this form (PDF) and send it to the following address:

Industrial Commission of Arizona
Labor Department
PO BOX 19070
Phoenix, Arizona 85005

For violations of minimum wage and overtime requirements, which are distinct from non-payment of wages, contact the federal Labor Department.

Arkansas

Arkansas doesn’t handle wage and hour claims filed for more than $2,000 in back wages, as well as claims filed by workers who make more than $50,000 per year. If your claim (or you) fall under one of those categories, you’ll have to file your claim through the federal Department of Labor.

Owed less than $2,000 and make less than $50,000 a year? Here’s the wage claim you’ll need to fill out in Arkansas. After you’ve completed the form, mail it to:

Arkansas Dept of Labor
Labor Standards Section
10421 West Markham
Little Rock, Arkansas 72205

Your alternative option is to file a civil lawsuit and demand your stolen wages in court. To learn more about overtime violation attorneys in Arkansas, click here.

California

To file a wage claim in California, you’ll need to fill out an Initial Report or Claim form (also known as the DLSE Form 1) and submit it to the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement.

Colorado

To file a wage and hour claim in Colorado, work through the state’s online form, which will walk you through the process. Be aware that Colorado can only order an employer to pay back wages that were earned on or after January 1, 2015. The Department can only order an employer to pay up to $7,500. For wages earned before January 1, 2015, the state’s Department of Labor and Employment can act as a mediator in wage disputes, but can’t actually compel an employer to pay up.

Colorado’s Department of Labor and Employment also provides a “Demand for Payment of Wages” form, which you can send to your employer. This isn’t required; the Department considers it an “administrative courtesy.”

Connecticut

To file a claim for improperly paid wages in Connecticut, visit this form. It’s a PDF, so you’ll be able to fill it out on your computer, but you’ll have to print the document out and sign it physically for it to count. After you’re done, mail your complaint to:

Connecticut Department of Labor
Wage and Workplace Standards Division
200 Folly Brook Boulevard
Wethersfield, CT 06109

Unlike some other states, Connecticut won’t accept claims filed by independent contractors. Only employees are allowed to file wage and hour claims. For a look at the difference between independent contractors and employees, click here.

Delaware

Delaware’s Department of Labor will only accept claims for unpaid wages that don’t exceed $15,000. If you’re owed less than $15,000, complete this form at DelawareWorks.com and send it to one of the two Office of Labor Law Enforcement locations listed at the bottom of the document.

Florida

Florida doesn’t have a state agency to investigate claims of wage theft. Instead, you’ll have to contact one of the federal government’s regional wage and hour offices, which are located in Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando and Tampa. For addresses and phone numbers, visit WorkplaceFairness.

Georgia

There’s no state agency to enforce wage and hour laws in Georgia, but the state is home to three offices of the federal Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division. Two are located in Atlanta, while a third is in Savannah.

Contact your local office to begin a wage claim:

Atlanta District Office
US Dept. of Labor
Wage and Hour Division
61 Forsyth Street, SW
Room 7M10
Atlanta, GA 30303
(678) 237-0521

Atlanta North Area Office
Harris Tower
233 Peachtree Street, NE
Suite 650
Atlanta, GA 30303
(404) 593-1889

Savannah Area Office
US Dept of Labor
Wage and Hour Division
124 Barnard Street, Suite B-210
Savannah, GA 31401
(912) 652-4221

Hawaii

Hawaii’s Wage Standards Division investigates claims of unpaid wages, but doesn’t provide a claim form online. You’ll have to contact your local office and speak with a representative about your situation. For a list of the Wage Standards Division’s offices, click here.

Idaho

Idaho provides an online form for processing wage and hour claims, available here.

Illinois

To file a wage claim in Illinois, complete this online form, print it out and mail it to:

Illinois Department of Labor
160 N. LaSalle Street
Suite C-1300
Chicago, IL 60601

You can also email the completed form to [email protected]

Indiana

Indiana only handles claims for unpaid wages between $30 and $6,000. If that describes your situation, complete the state’s claim form and mail it to:

Indiana Department of Labor
Wage and Hour Division
402 West Washington Street, W195
Indianapolis, IN 46204

If you’re owed more than $6,000, contact the federal Department of Labor. Additionally, Indiana’s state agency only handles claims filed by employees. Independent contractors are advised to contact a wage and hour attorney.

Iowa

Iowa’s Division of Labor Services will handle wage and hour claims that seek up to $5,000 of back wages, but only for minimum wage violations or non-payment of wages. Claims amounting to more than $5,000, along with those for unpaid overtime, should be filed instead with the US Department of Labor.

If you’re owed $5,000 or less and your claim doesn’t involve overtime wages, fill out the form hosted at IowaDivisionOfLabor.gov and mail it to:

Division of Labor Services
1000 East Grand Avenue
Des Moines, Iowa 50319

Kansas

Need to file a wage and hour claim under Kansas’ labor laws? Just print and complete the form at Kansas’ Department of Labor, then send it to:

Kansas Department of Labor
Employment Standards
401 SW Topeka Blvd
Topeka, Kansas 66603

Kentucky

Kentucky’s Labor Cabinet gives you two options for filing a claim for wage violations. You can complete the state’s simple online complaint form or print out the paper version here and mail it to:

Kentucky Labor Cabinet
1047 US HWY 127 S, Suite 4
Frankfort, Kentucky 40601

Louisiana

Louisiana only handles claims involving non-payment of wages. If you’re owed wages because of a minimum wage or overtime violation, you can contact the US Department of Labor or a private attorney.

Maine

Maine’s Department of Labor pursues all sorts of wage and hour claims, but you’ll have to call (207) 623-7900 and speak to a representative to initiate a complaint.

Maryland

Maryland’s Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation suggests sending your employer a certified letter demanding the wages you’re owed before filing a formal complaint. If you choose to do so, make sure to request a return receipt so you have proof that your employer actually received the demand. If your employer still doesn’t pay up after receiving the demand, visit this page to download and complete the state’s claim form.

Massachusetts

Massachusetts has a simple online form that you can complete to file a wage and hour claim involving:

  • non-payment of wages
  • overtime and state minimum wage violations
  • earned vacation wages
  • tipped wages
  • meal break violations

Follow this link to begin the form. Remember to scan and attach any documents you have that could substantiate your claim.

Michigan

Filing a claim for minimum wage or overtime violations in Michigan is simple. Just fill out the online form available through the state’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. Alternatively, you can print out a paper version of the form here and mail it to:

530 W. Allegan Street
Lansing, Michigan 48933

Minnesota

To file a wage and hour claim in Minnesota, you have to call (651) 284-5070 and speak with a representative of the state’s Department of Labor and Industry.

Mississippi

Mississippi does not have a state agency to enforce wage and hour laws. Instead of contacting a state office, you’ll have to file a complaint with the federal government.

Missouri

To start a claim for unpaid overtime or minimum wage violations in Missouri, just complete the online form available at the state’s Department of Labor and Industrial Relations website. Missouri’s process is a little quirky, though. The state can only use its current minimum wage to assess back wages, even if a worker was promised a higher rate. Here’s an example, straight from Missouri’s Labor Department:

“Suppose an employee expected to receive $500 for 40 hours of work ($12.50 per hour), but was paid only $250 for that 40 hours of work ($6.25 per hour). When [the Division of Labor Standards] determines the back wages due to the employee, it may only calculate the back wages due based on the difference between the minimum wage rate (currently $7.65 per hour) and the wage rate actually paid ($6.25 per hour). The employee may still have a basis (such as an employment contract requiring payment at the higher wage rate) to pursue a private legal remedy on his/her own with regard to the remaining wages.”

In other words, Missouri will only make you whole up to the level of the state’s current minimum wage. For any extra wages that you’re due, you’ll have to sue your employer in civil court.

Montana

Montana wants you to contact your employer first to hash out any issues directly before filing a formal complaint with the state. If a conservation isn’t enough to resolve the problem, you can print out the Montana Department of Labor and Industry’s wage claim form and send it to:

Labor Standards Bureau
Wage & Hour Unit
PO BOX 201503
Helena, Montana 59620

Nebraska

Nebraska’s wage complaint form is surprisingly easy, at least compared to the online options offered by other state agencies. Just complete your claim here, provide an online signature and click “Submit.” Even better, Nebraska gives you the option of remaining confidential in submitting your complaint, so your employer doesn’t have to know that you filed it.

Nevada

Have a complaint relating to Nevada’s minimum wage or overtime requirements? Just visit the state’s Office of the Labor Commissioner and choose one of the two options listed beside “Wage Claim Form”: a printable version that you can mail to Nevada’s Department of Business and Industry or an online form that you can submit directly.

New Hampshire

New Hampshire’s Department of Labor is working on an online wage complaint form, but it’s not finished yet. In the meantime, workers should download the form here, fill it out by hand and mail to:

Wage & Hour Administrator
New Hampshire Department of Labor
PO BOX 2076
Concord, New Hampshire 03302

New Jersey

To file a wage and hour complaint under New Jersey state law, just complete the form hosted by the state’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development and send it to:

NJ Dept. of Labor & Workforce Development
Division of Wage and Hour Compliance
PO BOX 389
Trenton, New Jersey 08625

You have the right to file this form anonymously. Just write in “ANONYMOUS” where it asks for a name. If you choose this option, the state will not inform you of your claim’s progress unless its able to successfully secure back wages in your case.

New Mexico

New Mexico doesn’t really want you to file a wage and hour claim. At least, filing a complaint shouldn’t be your first option. Before filing a claim, you must demand the back wages from your employer, preferably by sending your employer a written demand and requesting a return receipt. That will act as proof that you demanded the money directly before turning to Arizona’s Department of Workforce Solutions for help.

If a direct demand doesn’t work, New Mexico wants you to contact an attorney and pursue your back wages in civil court prior to filing a wage complaint with the state’s Department of Workforce Solutions. That’s why only employees who cannot afford an attorney are allowed to file claims with the state.

If you can’t afford a lawyer, and your employer owes you earned wages, complete one of the following forms, depending on which of the Department’s offices is closest to you:

Print the form, complete it and then send it to the appropriate office to initiate your claim for back wages.

New York

In New York State, filing a claim for unpaid wages is easy. Simply fill out the downloadable form at this link and send it to:

NYS Dept. of Labor
Division of Labor Standards
Bldg. 12 Rm. 185C, State Office Campus
Albany, New York 12240

New York State’s Labor Law precludes the state-facilitated collection of back wages for employees working in an administrative, executive or professional role and making more than $900 per week.

North Carolina

North Carolina doesn’t have a claim form that you can send to the state’s Department of Labor. Instead, workers should call (919) 807-2796 or the toll-free line (available only for callers living in North Carolina) at 1-800-NC-LABOR to speak with a representative of the Department.

Be sure to have the name of your employer, as well as contact information (e-mail, mailing address and phone number) for the company official the Department should speak to. While North Carolina doesn’t accept anonymous wage complaints, you can ask that your name be withheld during the investigation if other employees are being victimized by wage theft.

North Dakota

North Dakota’s wage claim process is rather complex, because the state’s Department of Labor and Human Rights wants workers to try alternative methods before asking for government action.

  1. Speak to your employer. Request the money you’re owed respectfully in a one-on-one conversation.
  2. Send your employer a letter, demanding the back wages that you haven’t been paid. The letter should make clear that it is a demand for wages you think you are owed and be specific as to the amount due and the hours you haven’t been paid for. In your demand letter, say that you demand payment within 7 days and that, if the wages aren’t paid within 7 days, you’ll file a claim with North Dakota Department of Labor and Human Rights. Make a copy of the letter for your personal records and request certified mail so you get proof that it was received by your employer.
  3. Complete the wage claim form here. Along with your form, submit any documents that could help clarify your case, including the demand letter you sent, any paychecks you have and written statements from other employees who can corroborate your assertions.

Once you’ve finished, send your documentation to:

600 E Boulevard Ave., Dept. 406
Bismarck, North Dakota 58505

Note that North Dakota will not initiate wage investigations on behalf of independent contractors, just employees.

Ohio

To file a claim for minimum wage or overtime violations in Ohio, fill out the Department of Commerce’s Minimum Wage Complaint form and mail it to:

Division of Industrial Compliance
Bureau of Wage and Hour Administration
6606 Tussing Road
Reynoldsburg, Ohio 43068

Make sure to attach any information that could help substantiate your claim, like paystubs and timesheets. The state’s Department of Commerce may return claims without appropriate documentation. Have your signature notarized by a notary public.

Oklahoma

Before starting your formal wage complaint in Oklahoma, speak to your employer again and ask for the wages that you’re owed. This is required, and it would be good to mention the date on which you asked for your wages in filling out the state’s claim form, available here. After you’ve thoroughly completed the form, and attached any documents (like timesheets or paystubs) that can substantiate your claim, mail the documentation to:

Oklahoma Dept of Labor
Attn: ESD
3017 N Stiles, Suite 100
Oklahoma City, OK 73105

You can also complete the form in your internet browser, adding an electronic signature at the end. After you’re done, click the large “SUBMIT” button at the top of the form’s first page, which should open your email client. Attach scanned copies of your supporting documentation to the email before sending it.

Oregon

Click here to print and complete Oregon’s wage complaint form. Read through the form carefully; Oregon’s documentation requirements are thorough. In addition to basic claim information, like the total amount you think you deserve, you’ll have to fill out a calendar, to the best of your ability, detailing the days and hours you haven’t been paid for. Substantiating documentation, like time cards and attendance rosters, is also likely to help your case.

Note that Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries does not accept wage claims from employees who haven’t first asked their employers for the back wages owed. Speak to your employer, ask for the money and then file a complaint.

Pennsylvania

To file a wage and hour claim in Pennsylvania, visit the Bureau of Labor Law Compliance’s online portal at this link to begin filling out your complaint. You can also print and complete the hardcopy form here. After finishing the form, send it to the Bureau of Labor Law Compliance along with any substantiating documents to this address:

Bureau of Labor Law Compliance
1301 Labor & Industry Building
Seventh & Forster Streets
Harrisburg, PA 17121

Rhode Island

Filing a claim for unpaid wages in Rhode Island is simple. Just print and fill out the paper form hosted by the state’s Department of Labor and Training. Please attach any documents you have, like payroll vouchers and timesheets, that could help substantiate your right to back wages. After you’re done, send the claim to:

Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training
Labor Standards Unit – Bldg. 70/2
1511 Pontiac Avenue
PO BOX 20390
Cranston, Rhode Island 02920

South Carolina

You can file a wage claim form with South Carolina’s Department of Labor, but the agency doesn’t have the authority to compel your employer to pay you the back wages that you’re owed. If you’d like to collect your back wages, the state suggests contacting a wage and hour attorney to begin a civil lawsuit. Under South Carolina law, workers who win wage and hour lawsuits can be entitled to triple the back wages owed.

With that being said, filing a valid complaint with the state may result in sanctions against your employer. You can send your claim through the mail to:

South Carolina Department of Labor
Licensing and Regulation, Wages and Child Labor Section
PO BOX 11329
Columbia, South Carolina 29211

or fax the document to (803) 896-7680.

South Dakota

If you’re owed back wages from a South Dakota employer, you can download the PDF wage complaint form on the state’s Department of Labor and Regulation website, complete it and send the finished complaint to:

State of South Dakota
Division of Labor and Management
Wage and Hour Division
700 Governors Drive
Pierre, South Dakota 57501

Be careful: South Dakota’s complaint system only applies to “cash wages”; it doesn’t cover overtime violations. To make a claim for unpaid overtime, you’ll have to contact the US Department of Labor or a private attorney.

Tennessee

There isn’t a specific form available to file a wage claim in Tennessee, but the state’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development does investigate complaints on behalf of workers. To learn more about pursuing back wages, call the Division of Labor Standards at (615) 741-2551.

Texas

To file a claim for unpaid wages under Texas’ Payday Law, follow this link to download the state’s complaint form. Read the form’s instructions carefully before completing it. After you’ve finished, mail your documentation to:

Texas Workforce Commission, Labor Law Section
101 East 15th Street, Room 124T
Austin, Texas 78778

Not sure if Texas’ Payday Law applies to you? Don’t worry. Submit your claim and the state’s Workforce Commission will help you figure out your eligibility.

Utah

Use this online complaint system to file a claim for minimum wage or overtime violations in Utah. You can also print a paper version of the form (available here) and send it to:

Utah Labor Commission
Wage Claim Unit
160 East 300 South, 3rd Floor
PO BOX 146630
Salt Lake City, Utah 84114

Note that Utah’s Labor Commission will only investigate claims for unpaid wages between $50 and $10,000. There are other eligibility requirements to consider, but the state’s online claim form will walk you through them.

Vermont

File a claim over minimum wage or overtime violations in Vermont by completing the form hosted at Labor.Vermont.Gov and mailing it to:

Wage and Hour Program
PO BOX 488
Montpelier, Vermont 05601

Virginia

To file a claim for unpaid wages or minimum wage violations in Virginia, print and complete the PDF form available on the state’s Department of Labor and Industry website. Instructions for completing the form, including eligibility requirements, are here. After you’ve finished, send your form and substantiating documents to:

Division of Labor and Employment Law
Virginia Department of Labor and Industry
600 East Main Street, Ste. 207
Richmond, Virginia 23219

Virginia doesn’t pursue claims for unpaid overtime. You’ll have to contact the US Department of Labor for that. The state’s investigations are also limited to amounts under $15,000. For claims over $15,000 in back wages, Virginia suggests contacting a private lawyer.

Washington

You can file a claim for back wages under Washington State’s minimum wage and overtime laws by completing the simple online form available here or downloading a PDF version of the form and mailing it to one of the 19 Department of Labor and Industries listed on the document, whichever office is located in the same county as your employer.

West Virginia

You’ll find West Virginia’s online wage complaint submission system at WVLabor.com. You can also complete the short paper form available at this link and mail it to:

West Virginia Division of Labor
Capitol Complex
Building 6, Room 749B
Charleston, West Virginia 25305

Unlike most states, West Virginia also investigates claims involving unhonored fringe benefits and commissions. You can use the same forms linked above to file for any wage violation covered by West Virginia law.

Wisconsin

To file a wage claim in Wisconsin, visit the State of Wisconsin’s Department of Workforce Development and download the Labor Standards Complaint. Read through the document carefully, complete it thoroughly and then send your complaint to either one of these addresses:

State of Wisconsin
Department of Workforce Development
Equal Rights Division
201 E Washington Ave
PO BOX 8928
Madison, Wisconsin 53708

State of Wisconsin
Department of Workforce Development
Equal Rights Division
819 N 6th St
Room 723
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53203

Wyoming

Owed unpaid wages in Wyoming? Just follow this link to begin filling out the state’s online complaint form.

3. Contact A Wage & Hour Attorney

As we’ve seen, many states won’t handle certain wage and hour claims. Arkansas, for example, probably won’t accept claims for small amounts of unpaid wages. Alabama only handles claims for non-payment of wages. For cases like that, which fall outside of the authority of state enforcement agencies, workers have only two options: pursue back wages with the US Labor Department’s help or contact a private wage and hour attorney.

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