How to Report Unpaid Wages and Recover Back Pay

June 29, 2022

The Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division (WHD) is responsible for enforcing the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The most common fix to a wage violation for is for the employer make up the difference between what the employee was paid and the amount he or she should have been paid, known as back pay.

Complaints and Investigations

The WHD conducts investigations as a part of its enforcement of the FLSA and many investigations are initiated by worker complaints.

Worker Complaints

As a worker, all complaints are confidential, your name and the nature of your complaint aren't disclosed. The only exception is when it's necessary to reveal your identity, with your permission, to pursue an allegation.

The type of information needed to file a complaint includes:

  • Your name, address and phone number

  • The name of the company where you work or worked and the location

  • The names of managers or owners

  • he type of work you did

  • How and when you were paid

The services provided by the WHD provides are free and confidential. Importantly, your employer can't terminate you or otherwise discriminate against you in any way for filing a complaint with WHD.


An investigation consists of several steps:

  • A conference between the WHD representative and the business, during which the investigation process is explained.

  • Examination of records to determine what laws or exemptions apply to the business and its employees.

  • Examination of time and payroll records.

  • Private interviews with certain employees to verify the time and payroll records, to identify a worker's duties in sufficient detail to determine what exemptions, if any, apply and to determine if young workers are legally employed.

When the fact-finding steps have been completed, the employer will be told whether violations have occurred and, if so, what the violations are and how to correct them. If back wages are owed, the employer will be asked to pay back wages and the employer may be asked to compute the amounts due.