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How to Prepare for a DOL Investigation

February 1, 1999
Related Topics: Wages and Hours, Featured Article
The most common reason for a DOL investigation is an employee complaint. Or the employer could be operating in a targeted industry, such as manufacturing or the building services. Employees are most likely to complain when a job is redesignated by the employer from nonexempt status to exempt, when overtime pay is not approved, or when an employee is terminated.

Auditors have wide latitude to inspect records and interview employees. Once an employer is notified that an audit is to be conducted, the employer should prepare for the investigation by conducting his or her own audit, immediately correcting compliance problems and preparing defense documentation.

Here are some tips for HR:

  • Review the differences between state and federal law. Make sure you're in compliance with the stricter of two laws.

  • Review the job descriptions of the targeted jobs. Interview all the job incumbents and their managers to determine the accuracy of the job descriptions, to determine the actual duties being performed, and to determine whether timekeeping is accurate.

  • Exemption classification interviews should pay close attention to the amount of time spent on nonexempt type duties and requirements for administrative exemptions. Also attend to jobs where the incumbent may spend less than 50 percent of the time during the workweek on duties that meet the primary duty definition for the executive, administrative, professional or outside sales tests.

  • Conduct a training session for supervisors and managers on exemption status determinations.

  • Correct inappropriate time-keeping and pay practices immediately, such as exemption reclassification, update job descriptions if they're inaccurate, and back pay for unpaid overtime -- including unapproved overtime that was worked.

  • Work with an attorney who specializes in employment issues to review your policy manual or legal accuracy and completeness.

  • If employees aren't performing the job as management intends in regard to the nature of tasks performed or time spent working, then instruct the employee to perform the job as assigned.

  • If you don't have experience with wage and hour audits, seek help from a consultant or attorney. Interpretations of the law are difficult without knowledge of historical court cases.

SOURCE: Mae Lon Ding is president of Personnel Systems Associates in Anaheim Hills, California.

Workforce, February 1999, Vol. 78, No. 2, p. 44.

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