$8 million in unpaid wages waiting to be claimed by Texas workers

DALLAS - The U.S. Department of Labor says 12,000 Texans have money that belongs to them in back wages, and they don't even know it.

The back wages for Texas add up to $8 million and the clock is ticking for people to claim it.

The unclaimed money comes from employers who were found to be underpaying employees in an investigation.

The U.S. Department of Labor says the average Texan with unclaimed back wages would be entitled to hundreds of dollars.

<div>Photographer: Paul Yeung/Bloomberg via Getty Images</div>
Photographer: Paul Yeung/Bloomberg via Getty Images

"It's a significant amount of money. It's an average of about $662 per worker," said Jesus Valdez, the Dallas District Director of the Department of Labor.

Employers who are found to be in violation of the law typically send the checks directly to the employee who earned it.

"When they are unable to locate those workers for various reasons, they are asked to deposit that money to an account held by the U.S. Department of Labor," Valdez explained.

Here in North Texas alone, there is more than $1.6 million owed to 2,500 workers.

"Once that money is deposited into that account, we make every effort to try to locate the workers," Valdez said.

But if 3 years go by without the workers claiming their wages, the money goes to the U.S. Treasury Department.

The Department of Labor says if you have worked for an employer you should check out their database.

"We really recommend that anyone go in there and enter their current employers name or former employers name and try to determine if they may be owed any wages," Valdez explained.

The Labor Department does not identify employers on the list while investigations continue, but out of the entire state, a Denton employer has the most workers with unclaimed back wages.

The company owes 487 employees more than $260,000.

Of the 50 biggest cases in the state, 6 are from Dallas.

As a whole, Tarrant County cases add up to more than $500,000 and Collin County workers are owed $120,000.

"We conduct investigations for many reasons. It could be a complaint from a current or former employer who contacts us and says, 'I'm not being paid for all the hours that I work,'" Valdez explains.

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The Labor Department also has a proactive focus on certain industries, like construction and food services, but Valdez says their investigations cover all industries and salary ranges.

"This is money that has already been earned by workers, and it's their money. So they should go in there and see if there's anything there for them," Valdez said.

To check the Workers Owed Wages database click here.