Hurricane Recovery Workers Awarded $14.3 Million in Unpaid Wages

In this past year alone after hurricane Irma and Maria wreaked havoc in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. To date $14,337,657 has been recovered in unpaid wages for recovery workers by the Wage and Hour Division (WHD) of the Department of Labor (DOL). Almost 8,000 recovery workers have benefitted from this recovery process. Nevertheless, many thousands more may still be owed significant overtime pay.

The WHD’s efforts focused on educating employers and employees about compliance with federal wage laws such as the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Their investigations found several wage violations as a result of misclassifying most recovery workers as independent contractors. Affected recovery workers are often paid a day rate or set salary without any regard to their actual hours worked, which are usually over 40 hours per week during these recovery and relief periods.

If a recovery worker is wrongfully misclassified as an independent worker instead of an employee they are entitled to an hourly rate. Additionally, when working over 40 hours per week, they may be entitled to receive overtime pay at time and a half their regular hourly rate. The investigations in Puerto Rico and the islands found that many of the misclassifications were a result of companies willfully avoiding paying recovery workers in accordance with labor laws to cut payroll costs and required health and welfare benefits.

Although the Department of Labor is doing good work, countless more are owed hard earned wages. With hurricane seasons lasting longer and longer each year, more recovery workers may continue to work weeks on end without the appropriate pay. If you’ve worked as a recovery worker in the last several years during the aftermath of a hurricane, you may be owed your rightfully earned wages. Call Fitapelli & Schaffer, LLP for a free phone consultation at (212) 300-0375 with any one of our available representatives. You may also view additional information on our website.