Do you think that one of your employers did not pay you what you were owed? Whether it’s unpaid overtime, or you’ve been paid less than minimum wage, or you’ve worked hours you don’t get paid for, the feds might have money that you can claim. It’s easy to find out through the Department of Labor.

The Department of Labor recovered more than $230 million in back wages in 2021 from employers who owed workers wages, an average of $1,211 for each worker who owed back wages. If the Department’s Wage and Hour Division finds that an employer has not paid its employees fairly, it can compel that company to pay what it owes and then direct the money to the workers who were deceived.

However, if the agency cannot find you to give you the salary you are owed (for example, you have moved or changed your name), they will hold the money for three years to give you time to claim it. Read on to find out how to find out if you have unpaid wages to recover and how to claim them. To learn more, find out how to check if your state owes you money and how to get it.

Why is the Department of Labor withholding my back pay?

If the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division finds that an employer has violated minimum wage and overtime laws covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act, it attempts to collect those unpaid wages by requiring the employer to pay the full amount they owe you.

If the agency has not been able to contact you, it will hold back your salary arrears for three years. After that, the law requires him to send the money to the US Treasury. You will no longer be able to claim a refund after this period.

How to know if you have back wages to claim from the federal government

There is a quick and easy process to find out if there are unpaid wages that you are entitled to claim.

1. Head to the search tool for wages owed by DOL workers.

2. In the Search for an employer by name enter the name of the company that may owe you salary arrears and press the WOW search button.

3. If the search tool finds a match, it displays the company name in the results field. Select the company and press Next.

4. In the next window, enter your first initial and last name and press Submit. If the tool finds that the division is holding unclaimed wages, it will direct you to a DOL office who can verify your information and then send a check for back pay.

How to Claim Unpaid Wages from an Employer to Get Money Owed to You

If you believe your employer has withheld wages that do not appear on the Workers Owed Wages tool above, you can file a complaint with the DOL. You will need to provide information such as salary, hours worked, and pay stubs to the DOL to determine whether to initiate an investigation. You can also contact your state labor agency to file a complaint.

cash with a magnifying glass

You can file a complaint if you think your employer owes you money.

Sarah Tew/CNET

What is the federal minimum wage and what are the overtime rules?

The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. A state or city may have a higher minimum wage rate, and in a situation where an employee is covered by federal and state wage laws, the employee may qualify for the higher minimum wage. Ask your national employment agency for more information.

Employees covered by federal overtime regulations should receive 1.5 times their regular rate of pay after working 40 hours per week. Note that federal regulations do not require overtime pay for weekends or holidays, unless the work on those days exceeds 40 hours per work week. Note that state laws may define overtime differently. California, for example, requires overtime pay after an 8-hour workday.

For more ways to track the money the government owes you, here’s how to check the status of your income tax refund and how to know if your state owes you new child tax credit.