DOL Wage and Hour Division Audits for Low Wage Industry Violations
July 20, 2010
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has recently labeled the hospitality industry along with other low wage industries as "high-risk" in regard to the frequency of federal wage and hour law violations against vulnerable workers. As a result, the DOL has planned an initiative that will target these industries across the country, with DOL Wage and Hour Division audits and investigations.
According to the DOL Wage and Hour Division (WHD) fact sheet, in an audit, the division chooses certain types of low wage industries for investigations because of the high rates of violations, the employment of vulnerable workers, as well as the quick changes in the growth or decline of the businesses. The DOL reports that certain businesses are targeted for investigations in order to protect employee rights, by improving employer compliance with federal laws, like the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), requiring proper overtime and minimum wage payment.
In a DOL Wage and Hour Division investigation:
- An employer's records are examined in order to determine the exact exemptions or laws that apply.
- The company's payroll and time records are examined, to make sure that the employer is not violating any wage and hour laws under the FLSA.
- Certain employees are interviewed, to verify the employer's payroll, examine the classification of employees, and ensure the legality of working minors.
- When the investigations are completed, the employer is reportedly informed on the extent of the employment violations, and instructed on how to implement corrective actions. If the employer has violated overtime or minimum wage laws, and back wages are owed to workers, the WHD investigator will ask that the correct amount of back wages are paid to the employees.
According to the WHD, although every effort is made by the division to resolve back pay issues and achieve compliance with the employer, the FLSA also provides the following:
- An employee who has experienced wage and hour violations may file a lawsuit to recover back pay, and the same amount of compensation in liquidated damages, as well as court costs and fees for an attorney.
- The Secretary of Labor may sue on behalf of employees for back pay and the same amount of compensation in liquidated damages.
- The Labor Secretary may obtain a court injunction keep employers from engaging in employment violations, like withholding minimum wage and overtime wages earned.
- For child labor violations and repeated violations of FLSA's overtime and minimum wage requirements, civil money penalties could be assessed.
- Employers who have violated wage and hour laws willfully may face penalties of a criminal nature. This could include fines and imprisonment.
- Employees who have filed complaints or who provide investigators with information are protected under law. They may not be discriminated against, or wrongfully terminated for any such activity, and if they are, they may file a suit or have the Labor Secretary file a lawsuit for them, for relief, job reinstatement, and wage compensation, as well as any monetary damages.
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