As we come up to Labor Day, a day originally intended to appease labor unions, I thought it would be constructive to remind readers of the current state of affairs with the U.S. Department of Labor. Notice that last word please… it is NOT the U.S. Department of Employers. There is a Secretary of Labor, who has a union background and family history. She has publically stated that that employers are stealing money from their employees and that she is “the new sheriff in town” who will rectify the situation. So the Wage & Hour section has hired more investigators. The Office of Federal Contract Compliance, part of the USDOL, has also stepped up investigations, in particular applying a standard of equal wages to federal contractors. OSHA, also part of the USDOL, has hired more investigators and the Assistant Secretary has announced that he intends to pursue CRIMINAL solutions to safety violations.
The USDOL has also broadcast a program called WE CAN HELP. See my April 6, 2010 post entitled US Department of Labor: It’s War! And Employers Are The Enemy .
So what can you do as an employer? Well I would suggest the following:
- Have accurate records of all employees rates of pay.
- Make sure all employees are accurately classified.
- Make sure your independent contractors are indeed independent.
- Have clear policies on overtime and make sure employees and supervisors know them and follow them.
- Have clear policies on work performed outside of “normal” work hours. Often called “donning” and “doffing” rules they deal with the prepartory work necessary to do work.
- Make sure people taking meal breaks do so for at least a half hour and that they are full relieved of ALL duties.
I will give you an example of a violation. My son worked for a landscaping company. The boss had them arrive at the workplace for a meeting prior to being released to the worksite at 8 am. He did not pay them for the meeting. He paid them from 8 am until 5 pm. His reasoning was that they were not performing the work they were hired for by sitting in the meeting. BIG NO-NO.
So if you are dealing with alot of hourly workers be very, very aware.