The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) frequently responded inadequately to complaints, leaving low wage workers vulnerable to wage theft and other labor law violations.
Wage theft occurs when workers are not paid all their wages, workers are denied overtime when they should be paid it, or workers aren’t paid at all for work they’ve performed. Wage theft is when an employer violates the law and deprives a worker of legally mandated wages.
Posing as fictitious complainants, GAO filed 10 common complaints with WHD district offices across the country. The tests found WHD staff deterred fictitious callers from filing a complaint by encouraging employees to resolve the issue themselves, directing most calls to voicemail, not returning calls to both employees and employers, and providing conflicting or misleading information about how to file a complaint.
You can listen to clips of undercover calls illustrating poor customer service here.
In addition to the 10 fictitious scenarios, GAO identified 20 cases affecting more than 1,000 employees whose complaints were inadequately investigated by WHD. Some of the industries GAO identified in its cases were trucking, plumbing, construction and telemarketing. A specific case in commercial greenhouse floriculture was not identified.
Still, GAO’s findings will impact all employers and employees, including those in our industry. WHD officials often told GAO that WHD lacks the resources to conduct an investigation of every complaint, allowing employers in some small cases to avoid paying back wages simply by refusing pay.
The Department of Labor is directly addressing ineffective complaint intake and investigation processes with the hiring of 250 investigators this year to enforce wage-and-hour laws.
On Sunday, The Las Vegas Sun reflected on the news in an editorial and explained how the actions will have some of their greatest effects on Walmart workers. Read the Las Vegas Sun editorial here.