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Study: Many Wage Complaints Go Uninvestigated

When a worker believes they’ve been cheated out of their pay, they can file a complaint with the state.

But a new study finds many of those complaints are never investigated. 

Of the 4,000 wage complaints filed with the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry over the last four years, about half weren’t even investigated. That’s according to a new report from the Legal Aid Justice Center.

Nicholas Marritz is an attorney with the center who helped put together the report, and he says the agency — not Virginia law — is the problem.  “It has some internal policies not based on any statute or regulation. These are just things that the agency made up that they basically use to dismiss lots and lots of claims on what we think are some very dubious bases.”  Like dismissing a wage claim for workers who have a written employment contract. Or workers who worked more than 40 hours a week. Or workers who worked in other states for Virginia-based companies.

Kim Bobo at the Virginia Interfaith Public Policy Center says the department needs more money so it can hire more investigators.  “That would make a huge difference and would then enable the agency to make the kind of internal changes that are recommended in the report,” Bobo says.

In a written statement, a spokeswoman for the Department of Labor and Industry says leaders there are reviewing their wage-claim policies, adding that they’ll consider recommendations proposed in the report.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.