Surprise! DOL Visits on the Rise

It’s important to know DOL investigators are showing up at worksites more frequently and are seeking to conduct immediate wage and hour investigations. Do you know what to do if a Department of Labor investigator surprises you?

  • Have a game plan: Don’t be caught unprepared. Make sure you know what to do ahead of time in the case of an unannounced visit from the DOL. Paul DeCamp, attorney and former administrator of the Wage and Hour Division during the Bush administration, recommends that the legal department be notified right away.
  • Know who to call:  Have a notification protocol so the proper people can be notified in the case of an unannounced investigation. The proper people to notify include corporate officials, HR professionals and in-house counsel.
  • Rescheduling: Sometimes the documents the DOL wants to investigate are not readily available or they may be at another location. The person who they might want to meet with may not be in the office. It is important to politely negotiate another time for the investigation.

In order to be prepared, it is important to be aware of the documents the DOL may request during an investigation. Here are some of the documents they will ask to view.

  • Names, addresses and phone numbers of all business owners and company officers
  • Company organizational chart
  • Legal name of the company and all other names the company uses when doing business
  • Payroll and time records from the past two years
  • 1099 forms and contract documents with any subcontractors at the establishment
  • The employer’s federal employer identification number

Remember: You do not need to disclose every aspect of your business

Stand your ground at appropriate times during an investigation. Alfred Robinson Jr., acting administrator of the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division during President George W. Bush’s administration, says, “All you are required to provide is what’s in the regulations.” Make sure to refer to 29 C.F.R. 516 including sections 516.2, 516.5 and 516.6.

Robinson says some investigators take pictures during their surprise visits. He adds that employers have the right to protect their confidential processes, equipment, patents and business secrets.

Common Mistakes Employees Make

  • Failed preparation: It’s critical to always be prepared for these investigations. Do not go blindly into an inspection. Know who to call and what to do.
  • Panic: Many times, employees panic and say things they shouldn’t – or they don’t even answer the questions the DOL investigator asks. Be calm and collected. Focus on what the investigator is asking.
  • No cooperation: Attorney DeCamp advises that all employees should cooperate with the DOL to the greatest extent feasible. That shows the investigator that the employees are committed to compliance with the agency.


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