Several workers tasked with rebuilding in Texas after Hurricane Harvey say they haven’t been paid by the contractors who hired them.
Unfortunately, exploitation by private contractors – like wage-theft after natural disasters – isn’t unusual. But if the problem is well-known, couldn’t the state have done something to protect workers this time around?
James Barragán is a statehouse reporter for the Dallas Morning News. He has been investigating this story along with Reveal, from the Center For Investigative Reporting.
Barragán says his team documented 19 cases of workers who completed post-Hurricane work on apartment buildings or hotels, and were then not paid.
“They went to the state to file a wage claim, and got very mixed results,” Barragán says. “The majority of them still have not received their money.”
Barragán says workers can file wage claims at the Texas Workforce Commission. But processing a wage claim could take several months. Receiving unpaid wages could take additional months.
“Only about 42 percent of cases that are investigated actually award out the wages that are claimed to have been not paid,” Barragán says.
Even when claims are accepted by the state, about half of the wages owed are not paid because investigators can’t locate employers who owe them.
Barragán says that among the cases where workers aren’t awarded unpaid wages, the problem often comes down to paperwork, or that the case is outside the Texas Workforce Commission’s jurisdiction.
Written by Shelly Brisbin.