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Filing a Complaint with the U.S. Wage and Hour Division

Contents

    If your employer owes you money for unpaid wages or overtime, you have some options. You can file a complaint with the Michigan Wage and Hour Program or the United States Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (U.S. Wage and Hour Division). You can also file a lawsuit in state or federal court. This article is about filing a wage complaint with the U.S. Wage and Hour Division. To learn about filing a state complaint, read Filing a Complaint with the Michigan Wage and Hour Program. To learn about filing a lawsuit, read Filing a Wage Lawsuit in State or Federal Court. You can also use our Do-It-Yourself Wage and Hour Forms (coming soon) to find out which option is best for you.

    Important Facts

    Before filing a complaint, there are some important things to think about.

    If you already filed a lawsuit in court, you generally cannot file a wage complaint on the same issue with either the Michigan Wage and Hour Program or the U.S. Wage and Hour Division. If you already filed a complaint with the Michigan Wage and Hour Program or the U.S. Wage and Hour Division, you generally can later file a lawsuit in court on the same issue.

    Employees who are members of labor unions usually have rights in addition to filing wage complaints and lawsuits. Union contracts typically establish wages and benefits. This means if you are a union member you can file grievances through your union representative. Grievance procedures are set by the union’s contract with your employer. Consider speaking with your union and filing a grievance before starting a complaint or lawsuit.

    Independent contractors are generally not protected by state or federal wage laws. But if your employer wrongly classified you as an independent contractor, you may be covered by these laws. Independent contractor status is not determined simply by the label you are assigned when you began working. Various factors are used to determine this status. You may want to talk to a lawyer if you feel your employee classification is wrong. Use Find a Lawyer to find lawyers and legal services in your area.

    If your employer has filed for bankruptcy and you want to file a wage complaint or lawsuit, you will need to contact the bankruptcy court. Bankruptcy is complex. You may want to talk to a lawyer if you are in this situation. You can use Find a Lawyer to find lawyers and legal services in your area.

    There are strict time limits for filing a complaint with local, state, or federal agencies and for filing a lawsuit in court. The time limits may be different between agencies for the same violation. The time limits may also be different for filing a lawsuit instead of a complaint. If a complaint or lawsuit is not filed within the time limits, you may lose your right to bring the complaint or lawsuit.

    The U.S. Wage and Hour Division

    The U.S. Wage and Hour Division receives and investigates complaints filed under federal wage laws. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is the main federal law that requires payment of minimum wage and overtime rates. There are also federal laws that set prevailing wages on certain government-funded projects. To learn more about these laws, read Getting Paid: Minimum Wage Laws and Common Violations.

    The Complaint

    To begin the complaint process with the U.S. Wage and Hour Division, you will need to contact their nearest office. Complaints can be made by telephone or in person. Michigan offices of the Wage and Hour Division are located in Detroit and Grand Rapids. You will need to give your current contact information, job title, description of work, and details about how much you were paid and when. You will also need to provide your employer’s contact information and the name of the person in charge of the company, such as the owner or manager.

    If you need help or have questions about filing a complaint, the U.S. Wage and Hour Division provides a help line at (866) 487-9243. You can contact the Detroit office at (313) 309-4500 or the Grand Rapids office at (616) 456-2004. The U.S. Wage and Hour Division also has a smartphone app that could help you determine if your employer owes you wages.

    Along with the facts supporting your complaint, you may want to provide documents that can help prove your case. Examples of helpful documents are:

    • Pay stubs

    • Time sheets

    • Written wage agreements / employment contracts

    • Fringe benefit policies

    • W-2 forms

    After starting a complaint, it is important that you keep the U.S. Wage and Hour Division informed of any change in your or your employer’s contact information. You should also report any new information about your case. For example, you should inform the Wage and Hour Division if your employer pays you after you filed your complaint or if there are more hours that you worked but did not receive pay.

    Time Limits and Filing Fees

    It is best to file your complaint as soon as possible after the violation. Complaints for minimum wage and overtime violations under the FLSA and violations of the prevailing wage laws must be filed within two years of the violation. If the violation is “willful” (your employer knew that their actions violated the law or the employer recklessly disregarded whether their actions violated the law), you have three years to file your complaint.

    The time limits for filing a complaint based on the prevailing wage laws can differ depending on the circumstances. If you have questions about time limits for filing a prevailing wage complaint, you may want to speak with a lawyer. You can use Find a Lawyer to find lawyers and legal services in your area.

    There are no costs or fees for filing a complaint with U.S. Wage and Hour Division.

    The Investigation

    After you file your complaint, it will be assigned to an investigator. The investigator will first determine whether the U.S. Wage and Hour Division has authority over your complaint. If it does, the U.S. Wage and Hour Division will open an investigation and may take a statement from you. Your complaint and discussions with the U.S. Wage and Hour Division are confidential. Your name will generally only be revealed with your permission and when needed to pursue a claim.

    The investigator will contact your employer, gather and review records, and interview potential witnesses and other employees. The investigator will try to meet with your employer to discuss the findings and whether violations were found. If your employer owes you wages, the investigator will ask your employer to pay you. Your employer may be asked to pay you extra money (penalties) for violating your rights. The investigator will also ask your employer to respond in writing, which may give the investigator more facts or new information.

    The time it takes to complete an investigation varies. It will depend on the complexity of the case, the investigator’s caseload, and how long it takes you and your employer to respond to the investigator’s requests, among other factors. There is no set limit to complete of an investigation. You can use the U.S. Wage and Hour Division Case Status Search to find out the status of your complaint.

    The Determination (Decision)

    If the investigator finds violations and orders your employer to pay you wages and penalties, the U.S. Wage and Hour Division will first try to resolve the matter administratively (without filing a lawsuit). This is done through a lump-sum payment of wages owed, setting up a payment plan, or reaching an agreed settlement. If payment of back wages cannot be resolved administratively, the U.S. Wage and Hour Division may file a lawsuit to recover minimum wage and overtime pay.

    For prevailing wage matters, the U.S. Wage and Hour Division will try to get the payment administratively. If that doesn’t work, there will be hearings in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) who will make a decision. You or your employer may appeal the ALJ’s decision to an administrative review board. Review board determinations may be appealed and are enforceable through the federal courts.