In this three-part series, Littler shareholder Salvador Simao, a former trial attorney with the Department of Labor (DOL), discusses ways in which multi-state employers can effectively partner with the DOL. The first part examines the organization of the DOL Wage & Hour Division, and enforcement efforts under new Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis.
In her first public appearance after Senate confirmation, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis declared to the AFL-CIO Executive Council, “There is a new sheriff in town.” Armed with reports from the Congressional General Accounting Office (GAO) criticizing enforcement efforts by the Wage and Hour Division, Secretary Solis is well positioned to begin changing the culture at DOL.
Already, the Wage and Hour Division is hiring 100 new investigators. Congress gave DOL funding for the new investigators in the stimulus package. Under the Bush administration, although collecting more back wages than the Clinton administration, the number of wage-hour investigators declined from 950 to 750. In short, we can expect to see increased wage-hour enforcement in the near future.
What can employers do to minimize or avoid aggressive enforcement? One way is to seek a cooperative relationship with your company’s Wage and Hour Division MODO. What is a MODO? Read on – we explain it all below.
Organization of the Wage and Hour Division
The DOL’s Wage and Hour Division enforces the Fair Labor Standards Act, Family Medical Leave Act, the Employee Polygraph Protection Act, the Consumer Credit Protection Act, and prevailing wage laws. Generally, the Wage and Hour Division will conduct an investigation of a company if it receives an employee complaint or as part of a targeted initiative (e.g., a survey of child labor compliance in quick service restaurants). At times, follow-up investigations will be done to ensure continued compliance with the laws.
Investigations are performed out of about 50 district offices. Each district office has a District Director (DD), one or two Assistant District Directors (ADD) and, of course, investigators. Some districts are so large that they have satellite offices. For example, in North Carolina the district office is Raleigh, but there is also a “field office” in Charlotte. Field Offices are normally run by an ADD who reports to the DD in the district office.
District Directors report into a regional office, which in turn reports into the national office. The Wage and Hour Division has five regional offices: the Northeast Region in Philadelphia, the Southeast Region in Atlanta, the Southwest Region in Dallas, the Midwest Region in Chicago and the West Region in San Francisco. Each regional office is run by a Regional Administrator and a Deputy Regional Administrator. Employers rarely deal with the regional and national offices, as most investigations are resolved at the district office level.
As is true in any organization, individual investigators have different styles and approaches when it comes to conducting audits. However, there are ways to reduce anxiety and ensure consistency in various audits if your company has locations in multiple states. In the second part of this series, we explain the role of the Main Office District Office (MODO) and the specific procedures that apply to multi-state enterprises.
This blog entry was autored by Salvador Simao.