Workers can find extra cash

Published 7:23 pm Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Everyone loves coming across some extra cash, maybe in a forgotten piggy bank or last winter’s coat pocket.

For about 2,800 Virginia workers, that experience could await at the other end of a quick online search.

The U.S. Department of Labor has unveiled a new online tool that allows people to search their previous employers to see if they are owed wages after investigations conducted by the labor department’s Wage and Hour Division.

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“It’s a reinvention of a previous system, and it’s much more user-friendly,” said Mary Doughty, director of operations for the Northeast Region of the Wage and Hour Division. “It is relatively new, and we are definitely trying to make people aware this online tool exists.”

The department regularly conducts investigations of employers to see if wages paid their employees have complied with applicable regulations, Doughty said.

Companies found to have underpaid their workers are required to fork over the money as well as information on the employees to whom it is owed. The labor department then starts trying to track down those employees.

The problem is that workers in frequently affected industries are often transient and stay with employers for short periods of time before moving on to the next job.

Companies in construction, agricultural, hospitality and fast food are often the subject of such investigations, Doughty said.

“It helps us locate employees who can sometimes be hard to locate because of their transiency,” Doughty said of the new online tool.

Those using the tool input the name of a company first. If that company is found in the database, the worker is asked for more information, such as his or her name.

“Of course, we want to find the workers,” Doughty said.

About 2,800 workers are owed about $1.4 million, Doughty said. Workers who believe they might have money waiting for them should get moving quickly — after three years, the money is transferred to the U.S. Treasury.

Locally, J.M. Briggs Inc. in Virginia Beach, a concrete construction company, and Merryman Grounds Maintenance in Hampton, a landscaping company, have a total of 38 workers with back wages waiting on them, Doughty said.

“This is our attempt to try to locate as many people as possible,” she said.

To search the tool, visit Information on the site is available in English and Spanish.