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11/29/2004

Worker complaints up in 2004, U.S. reports

Workers' complaints about being denied overtime pay, wages and job leave guaranteed by law rose this year to the highest level in four years, the Labor Department said yesterday. Penalties for violations and awards of back wages fell.

The department's Wage and Hour Division received 31,786 worker complaints in the federal budget year that ended Sept. 30. That compared with 31,123 complaints in 2003. The increase came as the department was putting in place overtime rules that Democrats warned would strip rights to premium pay for millions of workers.

Wage and Hour Administrator Al Robinson said a growing work force accounted for much of the increase in complaints. The division assessed nearly $9 million in civil penalties, compared with nearly $10 million in 2003. It collected $196.7 million in back wages, down from $212.5 million in 2003 — much for overtime violations.

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