You may be aware that the Department of Labor can show up unannounced at your door to conduct a wage and hour audit. (A good reason to make sure now that your house is in order!)
And you may also know that, as a part of their audit, they will examine your payroll and employment records and possibly interview various hourly and salaried employees.
But did you also know that as part of the inspection, they may take a “walking around” inspection? They very well may! And it would pay all employers to know what to expect, understand their rights and responsibilities, and be prepared.
So, why would the wage and hour inspector want to go walking around your facilities?
They want to observe your employees at work to see if they can uncover any obvious violations. For instance, if they see somebody arriving early for their shift, performing work and then going to clock in, that would be a big red flag.
The investigator may also stop and informally ask workers questions about their job duties and other issues. These informal Q&A sessions can potentially reveal other problem areas. It’s all part of their information-gathering process.
Your Rights and Responsibilities
It’s important, first, to note that the inspectors do have the right to check out your facilities and talk to your employees. Trying to deny them entrance or insisting they need to get a subpoena or a court order before they can look around will likely only serve to make them suspicious of what you might be trying to hide.
But this doesn’t mean you should just give them free rein to wander where ever they want unsupervised!
They have the right to walk around your facilities, talk with employees, even give them a business card and ask them to contact the DOL if they have any additional information or questions. And you have the right to make sure it all happens in a way to minimize disruption to your business.
In fact, a management representative should accompany the inspector at all times, whether he’s examining payroll records in your human resources office, walking the halls peeking in to offices or chatting with employees in the break room.
(The only exception is that you cannot be present when the inspector formally interviews your employees. In fact, the inspectors may even conduct those interviews after hours, off-site, and they may include former employees as well as current workers. You might not even know who’s being interviewed, much less what they’re saying.)
Whoever is assigned to accompany the inspector should also take detailed notes. Note what areas the inspector seems to be interested in, who they speak with and what questions they ask (along with the answers they receive). This can give you valuable clues as to the focus of the investigation.
Warm Up Your Pedometer
So, bottom line, if the DOL shows up to audit your organization, they may very well want to include a walk around inspection as part of their investigation. Just as they use this inspection as an opportunity to gather information for their audit, though, you can use it as a chance to glean information about what, specifically, they’re investigating. When you’re in the midst of a wage and hour audit, this kind of information could prove vital to your defense.
Has the Department of Labor ever audited your organization? Did the auditors do any walk around inspections? What were the results?