The Federal Government May Owe You Money
The federal government may have some money for you.
In fact almost 10,000 New Jersey workers are owed more than $7 million in back wages by employers or former employers, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
The exact amount - $7,157,791 - is owed to 9,953 New Jersey workers. James Kolpack, deputy regional administrator, Northeast Region, Wage and Hour Division, U.S. Department of Labor, says many workers at the low end of the scale fall victim to wage violations.
"Locating these workers often proves difficult," Kolpack said.
He says changes in the economy and the workplace have given rise to emerging business models that cause those on the lowest end of the wage scale to be more likely to fall victims to wage violations.
According to Kolpack, the most likely to be at risk for wage violations are workers with a lack of knowledge about their rights as employees. Those with language barriers and employees who fear coming forward to file complaints may also be victims of violations.
"Our investigation typically focuses on low wage industries, review work periods, a period of at least two years," Kolpack said. "The transient nature of much of the work that we examine means that many employees for whom back wages are found have not worked for the investigated employer for some time."
Kolpack said the Federal Labor Department's website has a program called "Wages Owed Workers," or WOW. Workers who find that they are due money can submit a claim. They begin simply by entering employer's name and clicking "search."
"The newly-designed system will allow users to more easily search our database, electronically," Kolpack said.
In fiscal year 2014, the Federal Labor Department says it found $240 million for more than 270,000 workers in the United States.
"One of our top priorities is to ensure that money that we collect rightfully and expeditiously gets paid to the workers who earned it," Kolpack said. "It belongs to them."