$6.5 million is waiting for 14,000 Florida employees who got shorted on pay, feds say

You might be one of over 14,000 Florida workers owed a part of more than $6.5 million in unclaimed wages. If you are, the U.S. Department of Labor would like you get you and your money together.

If you’re one of those employees, it’s money you earned but didn’t get paid. Labor’s Wage and Hour Division got the money from businesses which were investigated and found to have underpaid workers by running afoul of federal wage laws.

Maybe the business violated the Fair Labor Standards Act, which covers overtime pay, minimum wage and a number of other guidelines. Perhaps a federal contractor or subcontractor didn’t pay the local prevailing wage rate or fringe benefits, a violation of the Davis-Bacon and Related Acts. Pay violations related to H-2A visa workers are as common in Florida as fraud.

But, by the time the investigation finishes and Wage and Hour recovers the money, Acting District Director of the Miami Wage and Hour Division Office Lissette Vargas said, people might have moved on to new jobs and employers might not provide the most up-to-date complete contact information. Also, Labor will hold the money only for three years before turning it over to the Treasury Department.

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Nationally, Wage and Hour is holding more than $161 million owed to about 222,000 workers. Of those numbers, $6,577,333 and 14,174, respectively, are in Florida. The three counties with the most workers with unclaimed money are Orange (3,164), Miami-Dade (2,329) and Hillsborough (1,107). The most money is owed workers in Miami-Dade ($863,467), Orange ($638,104) and Broward ($541,524).

“In the South Florida community, wage violations are most common among construction, restaurant, agriculture, care worker and warehousing (shipping, receiving) workers,” Vargas said.

How do you find out if you’re owed money?

The easiest way is to go to the Workers Owed Wages database and enter the name of your employer’s business. If workers from that business are owed money, you’ll go to the next step, which is entering your name. At some point, you will need to upload documentation.

You can also call 866-4US-WAGE or visit the local Wage and Hour Division office (that’s 11400 N. Kendall Dr. in Miami-Dade, 510 Shotgun Rd. in Broward, 1818 S. Australian Ave. in West Palm Beach and 4200 W. Cypress St. in Tampa). Whether over the phone or in person, Wage and Hour says they can work with people in almost 200 languages.