Some workers are declining back pay from the Labor Department because they fear being deported as part of President Donald Trump’s immigration crackdown, sources with direct knowledge of the situation tell Bloomberg BNA.
Workers across the country are telling DOL regional and district offices that they’re afraid to collect unpaid minimum wages and overtime or are refusing to confirm their address so that checks can be mailed, according to the sources. Many of those employees are believed to be shy about coming forward because they’re undocumented and not authorized to work in the country.
The number of employees declining back pay isn’t clear, as accounts are still coming in from around the country. The incidents are from cases already settled by the WHD with employers accused of not paying workers time-and-a-half overtime pay or the minimum wage.
The FLSA requires employers to pay covered workers minimum wages and overtime, regardless of their immigration status. Overall, the WHD recovered $266.6 million in wages in fiscal year 2016 for nearly 284,000 workers, an average of $940 per employee, the agency said. .
There’s no evidence of a similar pattern of workers turning down back pay during previous administrations, when the threat of worksite raids from ICE wasn’t as severe, some sources said.
Michael Hancock, who worked at the WHD for several decades, said he can recall a few isolated periods in time, such as after Sept. 11, 2001, in which workers were reluctant to gather back pay. However, this time the fear is actually legitimate, Hancock, now with plaintiffs’ law firm Cohen, Milstein, Sellers and Toll PLLC in New York, told Bloomberg BNA.
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