A common remedy for wage violations is an order that the employer
make up the difference between what the employee was paid and the amount he or
she should have been paid. The amount of this sum is often referred to as "back
pay." Among other Department of Labor programs, back wages may be ordered in
cases under the Fair Labor Standards
Act (FLSA) on the various federal contract labor statutes.
Listed below are methods which the FLSA provides for recovering
unpaid minimum and/or overtime wages.
(1) The Wage and Hour Division may
supervise payment of back wages.
(2) The Secretary of Labor may bring suit for back wages and an
equal amount as liquidated damages.
(3) An employee may file a private suit for back pay and an equal
amount as liquidated damages, plus attorney's fees and court costs.
(4) The Secretary of Labor may obtain an injunction to restrain
any person from violating the FLSA, including the unlawful withholding of
proper minimum wage and overtime pay.
An employee may not bring suit under the FLSA if he or she has
been paid back wages under the supervision of the Wage and Hour Division or if
the Secretary of Labor has already filed suit to recover the wages.
Generally, a two-year statute of limitations applies to the
recovery of back pay. In the case of willful violations, a three-year statute
of limitations applies.
Back wages also are available for underpayments to employees under
the Davis-Bacon and Related Acts
and the Service Contract Act, among
other laws enforced and administered by the Wage and Hour Division.