What is a DOL Wage Investigation?

 In Employees, Human Resources, Payroll, Tax Compliance, Time & Attendance

These investigations are not usually conducted randomly but are a result of an employee complaint…

Dealing with an Investigation

The Department of Labor and various state agencies that enforce wage and hour regulations have the authority to conduct workplace inspections regarding wage and hour issues.

The important thing to remember is that these inspections can be complex in their scope and that legal counsel should be involved as soon as possible even if they will not be present for the meetings. Usually these investigations have a very specific scope. These investigations are not usually conducted randomly but are a result of an employee complaint.  As a result these investigations can vary.

Wage and hour complaints are confidential. The name of the worker and the nature of the complaint are typically not shared with the employer. Whether or not  a complaint exists  may not be disclosed. Employees who have filed complaints or provided information during an investigation are protected under the law. Employers cannot discriminate or terminate employees for having made a complaint or assisted with an investigation. Employees who have been retaliated against may sue, seeking reinstatement to their jobs and payment of wages lost in addition to other damages.

Investigation Steps

  1. Employers can be represented by their attorneys at any point in an investigation process.
  2. Ask the Department of Labor to schedule the meeting or investigation at a mutually convenient time. Begin by contacting your employment attorney for legal advice and help getting your documents prepared.
  3. If your attorney has guidance that differs from anything below, we recommend that you follow the legal advice of your employment counsel.
  4. Let employees know your commitment to wage and hour law compliance and that there will be absolutely no retaliation of any kind against employees who may have brought a concern or those who assist in an investigation into wage issues.
  5. When the investigator has advised the employer of his/her findings, the employer or representative may present additional facts for consideration if violations were disclosed.
  6. Hold a training and communicate policy changes to employees if applicable.
  7. After the investigation is concluded, review the issue and other wage practices to ensure future compliance.

Wage and Hour Issue Employer Costs

Employer’s attorney’s fees and court costs, employee’s attorney’s fees and court costs, back wages, liquidated damages, court injunctions, civil financial penalties, increased penalties for repeat and/or willful violations, criminal penalties, including fines and imprisonment.

In addition, some regulatory agencies will share information. So if an employment department or tax agency is resolving an issue relating to a misclassified independent contractor, it is possible the Department of Labor may begin their own investigation as well. However, as stated before, most investigations are the result of employee complaints.

Content provided by Ahola’s HR Support Center.

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