In Fiscal Year 2023, investigations by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division recovered more than $212 million in back wages for nearly 163,000 workers. Roughly $100 million is still unclaimed in the nation, and that figure is more than $8 million for 12,400 workers in Texas.
It is money workers have earned but have yet to receive.
The average back wage check recovered for a single employee in 2023 in the nation was over $1,100. In Texas, the average owedto workers still is about $662 per worker.
A top priority at the U.S. Labor Department is to ensure that we swiftly pay back the wages we recover to the workers who earned them.
Yet, a significant portion of that money still needs to be claimed because we are still looking for some workers. In many cases, the employees change jobs or change addresses, and we cannot notify them. Name changes or an employer’s failure to retain contact information can also make it difficult for us to find employees and put back wages recovered into their hands.
The Wage and Hour Division can only hold unclaimed wages for three years before we are required to turn them over to the Department of the Treasury. Despite our best efforts, too much money still needs to be claimed.
To reach out to more workers and help them claim their money, the agency has developed an online search tool, Workers Owed Wages, that allows workers to enter information to determine if we are holding back wages on their behalf. The tool provides a quick and easy way for employees to find out if they have money and receive it.
The WOW system is currently available in English and Spanish. Last year, the division also updated the WOW website to make it more user-friendly and offer ways to search the database, and we enhanced security.
Both the English and Spanish versions of the website allow workers and their advocates to answer a series of questions to determine if we owe them wages and to claim them easily. If there is money we need to distribute, we will direct workers to the Wage and Hour Division Office, which can help them get their checks quickly. We answer calls confidentially in over 200 languages.
The division is eager to get these wages into the hands of the workers who earned them without delay. We encourage stakeholders to share the Workers Owed Wages link and informational videos on their websites, social media, or newsletters.