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December 20, 2002
Gov't Collected $175M in Back Wages in 2002
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U.S. Department of Labor announced that $175 million in back wages collected for 263,593 workers in fiscal year 2002 is the largest amount collected by the department in 10 years.

The Employment Standards Administration's Wage and Hour Division achieved a 33 percent increase over FY 2001 in back wages as well as increases in the number of concluded cases and enforcement hours.

"Strong enforcement and compliance assistance programs are working to restore more wages and to protect the rights of more workers," says U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao. " The figures released today demonstrate a trend of more investigations and fewer violations in America's workplaces. We would like to see that trend repeated in other areas. This means our investigators are on the job inspecting more workplaces across the country, while employers are demonstrating responsibility to their employees."

The Wage and Hour Division made a focused compliance assistance effort in child labor this year. In this area, targeted investigations increased and the number of violations decreased. In addition to child labor investigations, the Wage and Hour Division continued to target enforcement efforts in low-wage industries such as garment manufacturing, agriculture and health care. These low-wage industries all saw increases in back wages collected. Nearly $6 million in back wages was collected for garment workers alone, and the number of garment workers receiving back wages increased by more than 50 percent. The amount of back wages for agriculture workers increased by 30 percent, and the number of health care workers receiving back wages was up 20 percent.

"Our job is to make sure all workers get paid and get paid properly," says Victoria A. Lipnic, Assistant Secretary for the Employment Standards. "We focus time and resources in industries with vulnerable worker populations."

Overall, enforcement of the Fair Labor Standards Act resulted in $143 million in back wages for 241,568 workers.

Wage and Hour's Family and Medical Leave Act enforcement activities also increased substantially. More than $3.7 million in back wages for violations of the FMLA, a 25 percent increase over the previous fiscal year, were collected in FY 2002. The number of investigations of complaints of refusal to grant FMLA leave, termination and discrimination rose, and the number of employees affected by investigations increased by nearly 30 percent.

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