We all count on the companies we work to pay us for our work. But tonight, a News4 I-Team investigation found why so many people aren't getting paid for money they say they're owed.
The I-Team's Lindsay Bramson is asking the state if enough is being done to make sure you get paid.
This is how Carlos Castro makes a living.
He did similar work for one of the new hotels in downtown Nashville and is still waiting on that paycheck from the contractor who hired him.
"They change their numbers, they change their addresses. We can’t locate them so it's hard for us to even try to collect the money,” said Castro.
And he's not alone.
Nearly 100 others are suing, saying they are owed money for their last 2 weeks of pay and in some cases, overtime for work they did on the JW Marriott Nashville.
Many say they turned to the state Department of Labor for help only to be told there was nothing they could do.
“I wish there was more we could do but our hands are tied because we can only do what the law allows us to do,” said Kim Jefferson who is the Assistant Commissioner for the Tennessee Department of Labor.
“We got rights. And we must fight for our rights,” said another worker who worked on that same hotel.
And the News4 I-Team found it also happened to dozens of employees who didn't get paid when 6 restaurants suddenly closed their doors.
In both these cases the companies stopped operating in Tennessee, so the state could do nothing.
“If the company's no longer operating then who do we pursue,” said Jefferson.
So, why can't the Department of Labor do more?
It's the way the law is written. It doesn't allow the state to go after a company once they leave the state or stop operating.
“Our safety net should be more robust. We should do more to help make sure the laws that we have are enforced in a way that really help people,” said Karla Campbell who represents nearly 90 workers suing contractors who worked on the hotel.
“I’m looking to talk with one of the owners about a lawsuit involving your company,” said Investigative Reporter Lindsay Bramson when she tried to get answers from Mr. Dywall Services, LLC who is one of the companies named in the lawsuit.
Mr. Drywall is the company who hired First Class Interiors; the company responsible for paying these workers. That’s ccording to the lawsuit.
"I’ve called a few times now looking to get answers about why people weren't paid for work they did. I’m going to keep calling until someone will talk to me,” said Bramson in another phone call.
“90 people owed wages over the course of a project is a lot of money,” said Campbell.
And something like this could happen to you. So what if the company you work for suddenly closes it’s doors and leaves the state? Is there anything you can do to make sure you get paid? We found out you can go one step beyond the state to the U.S Department of Labor. Just this week we learned after they got involved the contractor agreed to pay back more than $100,000 to workers."
In some cases, the state can get money back.
in fact, more than $25,000 has been recovered for workers so far this year. But these are all companies still operating in Tennessee.
Leaving some people wondering what can be done to strengthen the law...so they don't have to worry about not getting a paycheck.
"We keep fighting and we'll see what happens,” said one of the workers.
When it comes to wage theft, the state has received more than 100 complaints so far this year.
If you feel you're a victim or know someone who is and want to file a complaint with the U.S Department of labor, you can call the Wage and Hour Division in Nashville at 615-781-5343.