Don't wait for Labor to come knocking
The first question that employers ask when they find out that they will be investigated by the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division (WHD) is, “Why me?”
The answer is fairly straightforward. The majority of Wage and Hour investigations are initiated as a result of a complaint. Almost all of the complaints come from current or former employees of a company.
When an employee calls the Wage and Hour office with a complaint their information is recorded and analyzed to determine whether or not it is likely that the employer is violating one of the labor laws enforced by the agency. If the agency believes that the violation is affecting more than just the person who filed the complaint they will initiate an investigation of the entire company.
They will not reveal who filed the initial complaint or even that a complaint was filed. The identity of the person who complained will remain confidential throughout the entire process.
A growing minority of investigations are initiated through industry wide investigations. Each year the WHD develops strategic plans that target certain industries on national, regional, and local levels.
They try to target industries that they believe are committing widespread violations. For example, last year the Denver District office targeted daycare facilities, greenhouses, and nurseries along the Front Range of Colorado and restaurants in Aspen. These investigations are not initiated through the complaint process but rather specifically chosen because the WHD believes the industry as a whole is at risk for violations.
Don’t wait for the WHD to come knocking at your door. An offensive strategy of reviewing your employment and pay practices on a regular basis is the best way to stay ahead of the game and out of trouble.