Not all employees in Alaska speak English proficiently, but the State Department of Labor and Workforce Development wants to make sure that all of them understand their rights. The department recently released several translations of its employee “frequently asked questions” pamphlet in different languages, including one in Tagalog.
According to the United States Census Bureau, Kodiak has a significant Filipino population. In 2010, Asians were the largest racial minority in the Kodiak Borough at almost 20 percent of the population with Filipinos making up around 17 percent.
The statewide supervising investigator for the Wage and Hour Administration, Joe Dunham, says the 23 questions in the pamphlet are an overview of basic wage and hour laws for overtime and minimum-wage eligible employees.
“What is minimum wage? What about overtime? Who gets overtime, who does not get overtime? Can I be paid salary? What about my final paycheck?” says Dunham. “Can they make deductions from my wages without my permission? So, it’s just simple everyday wage and hour questions that most of us come into contact with those questions at any particular job.”
While wage theft and labor abuse can occur, Dunham says some workers’ ignorance about United States labor laws could also be a matter of cultural difference.
“What turns out to be common in their culture turns out to be a violation in ours and very often, neither the employer nor the employee even knows about it,” says Dunham. “These questions are just something where employer-employee can look at this and say ‘Wow, I never knew that, maybe I should call up the Department of Labor and sit down and talk about it.’”
In the case that an employee feels they are being taken advantage of, they can report the issue to DOL investigators.