According to the February 18, 2010, Newsletter of the United States Department of Labor’s (DOL), 107 new members of its "Wage & Hour" staff have completed their "Basic I Investigator Training." The graduates completed an intensive three-week training on the investigative process and application of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Despite its name, “Basic I” is not beginners. Prerequisites to the course include completion of a comprehensive, 12-week pre-training, and a minimum of three months of on-the-job training.
The Wage & Hour Division is currently preparing for a second group of new field investigators for the Basic I Training, in conjunction with the DOL’s announcement late last year that it is hiring and training 250 new "wage and hour investigators" to seek out wage-and-hour violators.
In a warning to employers, U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis stated:
In early 2010, the department will launch a national public awareness campaign titled "We Can Help" to inform workers about their rights. The department will work closely with advocacy groups and other stakeholders to ensure that the materials developed for the campaign reach the workers who need them. We will not rest until the law is followed by every employer, and each worker is treated and compensated fairly."
Accordingly, employers would be well-advised to conduct an internal wage and hour audit to make sure they are compliant. Here are a few actions employers should take:
- Conduct a wage & hour audit. Double check that all of your job positions are properly classified as either "exempt" or "non-exempt" under the FLSA and DOL’s regulations–as well as California’s DLSE Regulations, DLSE Enforcement Manual, and the Industrial Welfare Commission Wage Order applicable to your business. You can conduct the audit yourself or hire an experienced wage/hour attorney or HR consultant to perform this analysis.
- Pay special attention to "threshold jobs" that are in a grey area between "non-exempt" to "exempt" classifications. It is better to be conservative, so as to avoid a lawsuit, and classify these "threshold jobs" as non-exempt to avoid any future problems. If overtime is an issue, examine the possibility of lowering the hourly pay so you don’t end up having to pay more overall wages to the reclassified employee.
- Educate employees who are reclassified as to the reasoning and explain that the employer is simply trying to comply with federal and state laws. Some employees have a notion that if they are "salaried" (versus hourly), then their job position in the company is somehow more sophisticated or important. The employer should explain that they are still looked upon with the same level of respect, but the change from salary to hourly is simply a function of the employer complying with the law.
- Educate managers on the basis for the changes and make sure they understand that the previously salaried (now hourly) employees will now need to receive timely, uninterrupted meal and rest breaks, and overtime.