Hurricane Harvey – Unpaid Wages

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, many contractors are hiring people to do labor and construction work in Houston, Beaumont, and other areas that were hit hard by the storm. Many of these contractors are legitimate, but some are not.

Ross • Scalise Employment Lawyers cannot assist with claims for unpaid wages against “storm chaser” contractors who are from out-of-state, who don’t have established businesses, or who are just scammers.
If you were hired by a contractor to do work on damage caused by Hurricane Harvey, and the contractor has not paid you, we recommend that you contact the following government agencies for assistance:

  • Texas Workforce Commission at 800-832-9243 or online at the Wage Claim Division
  • The Houston District Office of the U.S. Department of Labor at 713-339-5500 or 866-487-9243
  • The U.S. Justice Department’s National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721

After Hurricane Ike hit Houston in 2008, the Houston Interfaith Worker Justice Center published a report about abuse of workers who were hired to repair storm damage. HIJWJC reported that in the disaster recovery and reconstruction industry, abusive employers see natural disasters as an opportunity to make money by taking advantage – not only of desperate property owners affected by the storm, but of workers. After Ike, many companies recruited workers all over the region with promises of well paid jobs, lodging, transportation and food, only to fail to live up to these promises.
How can you try to protect yourself as a worker? If you are considering accepting an offer to work for a company doing hurricane repair work, do the following:

  • Be very cautious of working for anyone who is going door-to-door to get repair jobs;
  • Get the first and last name and telephone number of the person who is doing the hiring;
  • Get the name, address, and telephone number of the company you will be working for. If you can’t get the name, address, and phone number of the company, don’t go to work for it;
  • Get the employer to give you a letter or contract that states what your rate of pay will be and listing all other compensation, expenses, and/or benefits you will receive. If the company will not give you this information in writing, do not go to work for it;
  • If the person hiring you says he or she has is a subcontractor, get the business name, address and phone number of the contractor they are working under and check that business out;
  • If you are going to the work location from out of town or out of state, make sure that you don’t have to pay out of pocket for your housing and per diem;
  • Keep all text messages, emails, and other communications between you and the person doing the hiring and/or the company

Once you start working, keep an accurate record every day of the locations and hours you work. If you aren’t paid for the first pay period you work, take that as a warning that you may not get paid if you continue to work.

Natural disasters can provide opportunity for people who need work. They can also provide opportunity for con artists to take advantage of hard-working people. Take the steps you can to try to protect yourself from being swindled.