VANCOUVER (Sept. 25, 2014) — A Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) employee has reached a major milestone, recently surpassing more than $2 million in collections for workers who filed wage complaints against employers.
David Speer, who is with the agency’s Employment Standards Program in Vancouver, has been on the job for eight years. In that time, he has resolved nearly 1,900 complaints that totaled $2,007,100 in wages for workers.
“I just come in and do my job and hopefully help someone that day,” said Speer. “This job is a lot of conflict resolution — and that’s right up my alley.”
Since passage of the Wage Payment Act in 2006, L&I has collected and returned approximately $13 million in unpaid wages to nearly 20,000 Washington workers. The state receives about 4,000 complaints a year, mostly from the construction and food service industries. By law, the agency investigates each one.
“Every worker in our state should get paid all the money they’re owed for the work they do, but that doesn’t always happen,” said Elizabeth Smith, Fraud Prevention & Labor Standards assistant director. “We know it takes courage to file a wage complaint — we try to make it easy for a worker and do our best to get to the facts and sort things out.”
For his part, Speer’s experience helps. He holds a degree in business management from George Fox University.
“It gives me more of an advantage about businesses and how they function,” he said. “Otherwise, it’s very easy to get lost in the emotion of the dispute.”
Speer leads quarterly workshops for new businesses to introduce them to their legal obligations. He said the most common cases he’s handled are ones where employees don’t receive their final paychecks. The single largest case Speer investigated involved 11 workers due unpaid wages. The 2009 case collected more than $600,000.
Workers can file a wage complaint online at www.lni.wa.gov/workplacerights, or by calling 1-866-219-7321.