Skip to Highlights
Highlights

The mission of the Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division (WHD) includes enforcing provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 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. On March 25, 2009, GAO testified on its findings related to (1) undercover tests of WHD's complaint intake process, (2) case study examples of inadequate WHD responses to wage complaints, and (3) the effectiveness of WHD's complaint intake process, conciliations (phone calls to the employer), 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 complaint investigations, GAO used data mining and statistical sampling of closed case data for fiscal year 2007. This report summarizes the testimony (GAO-09-458T) and provides recommendations.

Skip to Recommendations

Recommendations

Matter for Congressional Consideration

Matter Status Comments
Our work documented several cases in which the employees' right to file a private lawsuit was constrained by WHD's delays, resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars of identified wage theft going uncollected. Therefore, Congress may wish to consider authorizing suspension of the statute of limitations while an investigation by WHD is ongoing.
Closed - Not Implemented
Although bills (S 3877; HR 3303) were introduced in the 111th Congress to effect this recommendation, they never made it out of committee and no bills have been introduced in subsequent congresses.

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Labor 1. To improve processes for recording and responding to wage theft complaints, the Secretary of Labor should direct the Administrator to reassess current policies and processes and revise them as appropriate to better ensure that relevant case information is recorded in WHD's database, including all complaints alleging applicable labor law violations regardless of whether the complaint was substantiated, and all investigative work performed on conciliations, regardless of whether the conciliation was successfully resolved.
Closed - Implemented
Wage and Hour Division (WHD) revised its Field Office Handbook (FOH) to require that all violations under WHD's jurisdiction be entered into WHD's database, including complaints in which more information is needed to determine whether a violation occurred. In addition, the revised FOH requires that WHD staff record actions taken on all conciliations, including those in which the employer refuses to pay. In November 2009, WHD provided training on these new procedures to all staff. Recording complete information about conciliations will provide more accurate information about investigative success rates for WHD management and prevents WHD from losing track of complaints made and investigative work performed.
Department of Labor 2. To improve processes for recording and responding to wage theft complaints, the Secretary of Labor should direct the Administrator to provide assurance that WHD personnel interacting with complainants and employers appropriately capture and investigate allegations of labor law violations, and provide appropriate customer service, the Administrator should conduct an assessment of WHD's complaint intake and resolution processes and revise them as appropriate.
Closed - Implemented
As of August 2013, the Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division (WHD) had completed an internal evaluation of its complaint intake and customer service policies and procedures. According to WHD, the results of this review informed revisions to its Field Operations Handbook. WHD also reintroduced customer service goals and measures in its annual performance plan. By performing this evaluation, revising its handbook, and incorporating customer service goals and measures, WHD has taken important steps towards improving its processes for recording and responding to wage theft complaints.
Department of Labor 3. To improve processes for recording and responding to wage theft complaints, and to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of WHD personnel handling wage theft complaints, the Secretary of Labor should direct the Administrator to explore providing more automated research tools to WHD personnel that would allow them to identify key information used in investigating complaints such as bankruptcy filings, annual sales estimates for businesses, and information on additional names and locations of businesses and individuals under investigation.
Closed - Implemented
Wage and Hour Division (WHD) gave district offices access to the automated research tool Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER), which allows users to electronically access bankruptcy case information. In addition, WHD revised their Field Office Handbook to require staff to verify employer-provided information with the bankruptcy court and include documentation in the case file. Giving staff in district offices access to PACER and requiring them to document bankruptcy information will allow WHD to avoid improperly closing cases based on employer-provided bankruptcy information.
Department of Labor 4. To improve processes for recording and responding to wage theft complaints, and to assist in the verification of information provided by employers under investigation, the Secretary of Labor should direct the Administrator to explore gaining access to information maintained by IRS and other agencies as needed through voluntary consent from businesses being investigated.
Closed - Implemented
Between July 2011 and January 2013, the Department of Labor (DOL) entered into Memorandums of Understanding (MOU) with the IRS and 14 states to share information with federal and state partners in order to target misclassification of employees. By entering into these MOUs to share information, DOL's Wage and Hour Division (WHD) has taken important steps towards improving its processes for recording and responding to wage theft complaints by acquiring new tools for verifying information provided by employers under investigation.
Department of Labor 5. To improve processes for recording and responding to wage theft complaints, and to provide assurance that WHD has adequate human capital and resources available to investigate wage theft complaints, the Administrator the Secretary of Labor should direct the Administrator of WHD to monitor the extent to which new investigators and existing staff are able to handle the volume of wage theft complaints, and if inadequate, what additional resources may be needed.
Closed - Implemented
In response to our recommendation, as of August 2013, the Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division (WHD) had hired or made selections to hire approximately 350 new investigators. By hiring new investigators, WHD has taken important steps towards improving its processes for recording and responding to wage theft complaints.

Full Report