If your employer owes you money for unpaid wages, overtime, or benefits, you have some options. You can file a complaint with the Michigan Wage and Hour Program (Wage and Hour Program), or the U.S. Wage and Hour Division. You could also file a lawsuit in state or federal court. This article is about filing a wage complaint with the Wage and Hour Program. To learn about filing a federal complaint, read Filing a Complaint with U.S. Wage and Hour Division. To learn about filing a lawsuit, read Filing a Wage Lawsuit in State or Federal Court.
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 the Guide to Legal Help 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 the Guide to Legal Help 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 Michigan Wage and Hour Program
The Wage and Hour Program investigates complaints filed under Michigan’s wage laws. Michigan has three main laws that regulate wages. The laws are:
The Workforce Opportunity Wage Act (WOWA). You may file a complaint under the WOWA if your employer does not pay you minimum wage or overtime rates.
The Payment of Wages and Fringe Benefits Act (PWFBA). You may file a complaint under the PWFBA for unpaid paychecks, improper deductions, or problems with fringe benefits.
Michigan’s Prevailing Wage Law (PWL). On June 6, 2018, Michigan repealed the state prevailing wage law. This means that there is no state prevailing wage on projects that began after June 6, 2018. If a project had to pay prevailing wages before the repeal, the employer may still have to pay prevailing wages on that project. The repeal of Michigan’s prevailing wage law means that you can no longer file a complaint with the Michigan Wage and Hour Program. Depending on your situation, you may be able to file a complaint with the U.S. Wage and Hour Division, a local municipality, or file a claim in court.
To learn more about these laws, read Getting Paid: Wage Laws and Common Violations.
The Wage and Hour Program offers a complaint form you can use for WOWA and PWFBA complaints. For PWL complaints, the Wage and Hour Program offers a different complaint form that you can use. Once you complete the correct form, you can file it by either mailing it or bringing it in-person to the address listed on the forms. For WOWA and PWFBA complaints, you can also use the Wage and Hour Program’s Online Claim tool to complete the form. The tool will walk you through all the information you need to provide. Your completed forms will be ready for you at the end.
To complete the forms, you need to provide contact information for you and your employer. You will also need to give information about your position, people in charge at the company, and other information regarding your wages, benefits, and the pay periods that are in dispute.
Along with your complaint, you may want to provide documents to help prove your case. Examples of helpful documents are:
Written wage agreements / employment contracts
Fringe benefit policies
After filing a complaint, it is important that you keep the Wage and Hour Program 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 Program 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 the complaint as soon as possible after the violation. As time passes, records may get lost and witnesses’ memories may fade. You also may want to preserve your right to file a lawsuit if the matter is not resolved by the complaint process. The time limits for filing a lawsuit are not the same as the time limits for filing a complaint. Therefore, you should allow enough time to complete the complaint process and still be able to file a lawsuit if you need to. Time limits for court filings are discussed in Filing a Wage Lawsuit in State or Federal Court.
Complaints for minimum wage and overtime violations under the WOWA must be filed within three years of the violation. Complaints for unpaid paychecks, improper deductions, and problems with fringe benefits under the PWFBA must be filed within 12 months of the violation. Complaints for discrimination or retaliation as a result of filing a complaint based on violations of both laws must be filed within 30 days of the discrimination.
There are no costs or fees for filing a complaint with the Wage and Hour Program.
After you file your complaint, it will be assigned to an investigator. The investigator will first determine whether the Wage and Hour Program has authority over your complaint. If it does, you and your employer will be notified by mail that the complaint has been received and is being investigated. At that time, your employer must respond in writing.
The investigator may ask for more information from you and your employer, and may interview you both. It is important to respond as quickly as possible. The investigator may also try to resolve the dispute informally and assist you and your employer in reaching a settlement. If you reach a settlement, the terms will be put into a written agreement for you and your employer to sign.
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 time limit to complete an investigation under the WOWA. The PWFBA generally requires that investigations be completed within 90 days after the complaint is filed. You can withdraw your complaint at any time. You can choose whether you would like to continue with other available remedies.
The Determination (Decision)
When the investigation is complete, the Wage and Hour Program will mail you and your employer a written determination. The determination will state the results of the investigation and whether any violations were found. If violations were found, the determination will order your employer to pay wages or fringe benefits due, plus penalties or other damages. It will also inform you and your employer of your rights to appeal the determination.
If your employer doesn’t pay you what was ordered, the Wage and Hour Program has the power to collect the money your employer owes you. After a determination is issued, you can ask the agency to stop any ongoing enforcement actions. You can choose whether you would like to continue with other available remedies. To learn more about different remedies, read Mediation and Other Forms of Settlement and Settlement and Negotiation Strategies.