Tuesday, April 24, 2012

“Eat Shop Sleep” underscores the importance of proactively addressing wage and hour issues

You might want to pay attention to the Department of Labor’s latest press release.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division is launching an enforcement and education initiative focused on the restaurant industry in the Los Angeles area to ensure compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act’s minimum wage, overtime, record-keeping and child labor provisions. Under this initiative, the division will be conducting unannounced investigations at [Los Angeles area] restaurants.

What jumps out the most from the press release is the following statistic:

In the past six years, … the division conducted more than 1,800 investigations of restaurants along the West Coast and found that 71 percent were violating the FLSA, resulting in more than $12 million in back wages owed to more than 9,500 employees.

What’s amazing to me is that the percentage of non-compliant employers is only 71 percent. I remain convinced, as I’ve pointed out before, that I can walk into any company and find a wage and hour violation. The FLSA and its regulations are that complex, twisted, and anachronistic.

For this reason, even if you aren’t a restaurant operator in the Los Angeles area, you need to pay attention to, and get out ahead of, these issues. You cannot predict when, why, or who the DOL will audit. What can you do? Take a detailed look at all of your wage and hour practices: employee classifications, meal and rest breaks, off-the-clock issues, and any child workers. Make sure you are 100 percent compliant with all state and federal wage and hour laws. If you are not sure, bring in an attorney who knows these issues to check for you. If you are ever investigated by the DOL or sued in a wage and hour case, it will be the best money your business has ever spent.

[Hat tip: Social Media Employment Law Blog]