This post was contributed by Joseph S. Sileo, Esq., a new addition to McNees Wallace & Nurick LLC's Labor and Employment Law Practice Group. McNees recently welcomed Joe, Jennifer LaPorta Baker and Jennifer J. Walsh in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
The Department of Labor (DOL) routinely investigates and audits employers to ensure compliance with a variety of important labor and employment laws. Historically, wage and hour (overtime) compliance under the Fair Labor Standards Act has been the most common subject of the DOL's enforcement efforts.
Fueled by additional resources, funding and staffing, the DOL is increasing its enforcement efforts both in terms of frequency and scope. This concerning trend means that employers can expect an increase in the number of investigations and that such investigations, once initiated, will cover a broader range of compliance issues and dig deeper into those issues under review. In this regard, our clients are reporting that, in addition to typical wage and hour issues, expanded DOL inquiries as a matter of course now include review of other laws, such as the Family and Medical Leave Act, and even the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. It is also common for DOL investigations to "spread," resulting in the inquiry ultimately moving into areas other than the initial issue under review.
DOL audits can be inconvenient, disruptive and costly. If a violation is found, the DOL will attempt to compel remedial/corrective action, which may require an employer to revise its policies and pay damages. In the case of a wage and hour violation, for example, an employer may be liable for any unpaid overtime over the course of the past two to three years for each affected employee. Given the potential consequences, it is typically best to seek the advice of counsel at the onset of an audit.
To reduce the negative impact and potential liabilities associated with a forced government audit, particularly in the face of the DOL's more aggressive and expanded enforcement approach, employers are advised to review relevant employment practices and polices, and to periodically conduct internal compliance self-audits, before any outside investigation occurs. Our Labor & Employment Practice Group can assist you with reviewing employment polices/practices, conducting internal self-audits, and responding to any DOL compliance inquiry. Please do not hesitate to contact any member of our Group for assistance with these issues and any questions you may have.