Skip to main content

Department of Labor: Wage and Hour Division's Complaint Intake and Investigative Processes Leave Low Wage Workers Vulnerable To Wage Theft

GAO-09-458T Published: Mar 25, 2009. Publicly Released: Mar 25, 2009.
Jump To:
Skip to Highlights


The mission of the Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division (WHD) includes enforcing provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which is designed to ensure that millions of workers are paid the federal minimum wage and overtime. Conducting investigations based on worker complaints is WHD's priority. According to WHD, investigations range from comprehensive investigations to conciliations, which consist primarily of phone calls to a complainant's employer. In July 2008, GAO testified on 15 case studies where WHD failed to investigate complaints. This testimony highlights the findings of a follow-up investigation performed at the Committee's request. Specifically, GAO was asked to (1) test WHD's complaint intake process in an undercover capacity, (2) provide additional case study examples of inadequate WHD responses to complaints, and (3) assess the effectiveness of WHD's complaint intake process, conciliations, and other investigative tools. To test WHD's complaint intake process, GAO posed as complainants and employers in 10 different scenarios. To provide case study examples and assess effectiveness of investigations, GAO used data mining and statistical sampling of closed case data for fiscal year 2007. GAO plans to issue a follow-up report with recommendations concerning resource needs and the recording of complaints. GAO also confirmed key findings with WHD officials.

Full Report

Office of Public Affairs


Claims processingConfidential communicationsData miningEmployeesFraudInvestigations into federal agenciesLabor statisticsLarcenyMinimum wage ratesNoncompliancePayPayroll recordsPersonnel recordsRecordsSchedule slippagesUndercover operationsWage surveysPolicies and procedures