The Wage and Hour Division’s fundamental goal is to ensure that workers receive a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. That mission makes us responsible to more than 135 million workers across the country − a significant challenge to be sure. With limited resources and competing challenges and priorities, we achieve our goal of protecting these workers by balancing several complementary strategies. One is to partner with other federal, state and local agencies, as well as with foreign consulates, worker advocacy groups and all other interested stakeholders.
By collaborating with others, we enhance our ability to reach some of the most at-risk and hard-to-reach workers − including migrant and recent immigrant workers. They generally do not file complaints due to language barriers, a lack of knowledge about their rights and out of a fear of retaliation, making them vulnerable to wage as well as health and safety violations. The Wage and Hour Division is combating this situation through a model partnership to help educate Hispanic workers and employers about workplace rights and responsibilities.
This partnership is EMPLEO − which stands for Employment, Education and Outreach − an alliance of government agencies, consulates and nonprofit organizations in the seven counties of Greater Los Angeles dedicated to empowering the Hispanic community, especially recent immigrants, through education, services, and protection of workplace rights and responsibilities. Specifically, partners include the Los Angeles Mexican Consulate and the Diocese of San Bernardino. Now celebrating its tenth anniversary, the EMPLEO program has expanded to the Pacific Northwest and will welcome seven new stakeholders and their representatives to the program.
Since EMPLEO started in Southern California in 2004, the outreach and assistance program for Hispanic workers and employers has been instrumental in the recovery of more than $15 million in back wages and compensation for approximately 10,000 workers.* That includes workers like Enrique Piñeda, a chef who knew his rights and sought help from EMPLEO after not receiving a salary for five months and nearly losing his home. “It is important for the community to know that it is ok to trust EMPLEO,” said Piñeda. “They helped me.” Thanks to EMPLEO, the chef received $11,000 in back wages due to him. Being part of EMPLEO helps us achieve our objective that all who work in this country, like Enrique, be paid fairly for a hard day’s work.
Being part of EMPLEO helps us achieve our objective that all who work in this country be paid fairly for a hard day’s work. In Los Angeles today, we’ll mark this anniversary by celebrating the successes of the partnership. Keynote speakers for the ceremony will be Consul General Carlos Sada from the Los Angeles Mexican Consulate and Bishop Gerald Barnes from the Diocese of San Bernardino. Wage and Hour Division local, regional and national staff also will participate.
We want those who need our help to know how to reach us. Through the EMPLEO partnership, workers can call 1-877-55-AYUDA. Calls are answered by Spanish-speaking volunteers trained by the Wage and Hour Division and other EMPLEO partners, and the call center is kept operating smoothly with our continued oversight and assistance. Workers can also call the Wage and Hour Division directly at 1-866-4US-WAGE to file a complaint or learn about their rights. Additionally, we have many resources available directly from our website in different languages for workers in a variety of industries such as agriculture, apparel and health care.
David Weil is the administrator of the department’s Wage and Hour Division.
*Editor’s note: This information was updated on June 19 to reflect the most recent data available.