Long Overdue: Winning Back Pay and Benefits for Workers

by Secretary Hilda Solis on November 28, 2011 · 6 comments

Workers deserve to keep the wages and benefits they earn. That may sound like an obvious statement, but to some employers, it’s not clear at all. In recent years, the U.S. Labor Department has collected hundreds of millions of dollars in back wages and benefits for hundreds of thousands of workers whose employers tried to deny them what they had rightfully earned.

Now the department has recovered nearly $8 million worth of earnings and benefits to more than 2,000 employees whose employer failed to make payroll for their last two and half weeks of employment. This case is especially poignant because the workers were security guards entrusted with protecting federal buildings across the country. While the guards were doing their best to keep other workers safe, their employer, USProtect Corp., was holding back the pay and benefits that they deserved.

Teaming up to right this wrong, investigators from the Employee Benefits Security Administration and the Wage and Hour Division uncovered the bad practices at USProtect and recovered compensation and benefits for these workers.

In addition to failing to pay workers, the company did not remit employee contributions to their 401(k) plan. Saving for retirement is a challenge in almost any circumstance. It is unconscionable that a company would take money out of the pockets of their workers by not depositing funds the employees had designated to go into their 401(k) plan as required by law.

In this case, the employer obligations under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act and the McNamara O-Hara Service Contract Act are clear: Pay your employees and submit their contributions to retirement plans in a timely fashion. These workers did what they were expected to do; yet their employer did not live up to its side of the bargain.

The compact of trust between employers and workers should never be broken, and when it is, the Labor Department will take all necessary action to correct wrongdoing. Whether this means working through the civil justice system or teaming with other federal agencies to prosecute criminal acts, I want it to be abundantly clear that we will never back down when it comes to ensuring that workers can keep the pay and benefits they have earned.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Geraldo Lavin November 28, 2011 at 5:03 pm

These companies that fail to follow basic ethical principles should not be licensed to operate any longer. Their management banned from run any other company for a long period of time.

2 R Quinn November 28, 2011 at 7:27 pm

You did your job, great. No need to editorialize and pat yourself on the back. It’s not “especially poignant” it’s an irresponsible perhaps crooked employer and the job the workers do is irrelevant.

3 financial success November 29, 2011 at 11:31 pm

It is quite amazing that some companies are so dishonest that they would take workers’ 401k money!
Even in these difficult economic times honesty should be the best policy!
I am glad that there is such a thing as Labor Department that will take all the necessary action to correct wrongdoing.
Thanks for posting!

4 Roth December 12, 2011 at 11:30 pm

401k accounts should be held sacred. They are the alternatives to social security that companies and the government are offering. These companies should be fined severely.

5 Mike December 30, 2011 at 4:22 pm

It was actually 28 days-We were not paid from Feb 16th-Mar 14th…..

Hopefully we get these wages soon..still nothing yet for Southern California contract.

6 Paul Mac January 4, 2012 at 2:28 pm

It really makes one shudder to think what could happen without the proper oversight.

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