Wage issues can cause huge headaches at a small business—complications with compliance can be common, expensive and tricky to untangle. The best way to avoid problems with employee wages and hours is building a familiarity with compliant wage practices and classifications. Such human resources management knowledge can help avoid problems in the office, and defend against further woes should a Department of Labor investigation or audit land in your lap.

Is your house in order with wage and hour issues? Here are some tips to help increase your understanding of such topics and help avoid complications.

Take a closer look

Many companies opt for internal audits—scanning your operation for problems before a government auditor can find them seems like a good way to head violations off at the past. However, be aware that your findings from an internal audit can later become part of regulatory or legal proceedings against you. To minimize your exposure, the audit should be conducted by an attorney (or at least at their direction) so that results may be protected and considered privileged.

Ask the right questions

When examining your organization for wage and hour compliance, it can help to ask yourself a few relevant questions pertaining to employment eligibility, overtime rules. Here are some examples:

  • Are all your non-exempt employees earning at least the minimum wage at either the state, municipal, or federal level (whichever is highest)?
  • What is the seven-day workweek for the purposes of overtime calculation?
  • Does the organization have a clear policy on off the clock work?
  • Does your organization have a clearly communicated policy prohibiting improper salary deductions?
  • Does the company offer short paid rest periods if required under state law?
  • Do you pay for employee travel time when applicable according to wage and hour regulations?

This is just a short list—for a more comprehensive checklist, contact us to learn how to subscribe to our HR Support Center Policy Library. If after running down your checklist you find your company may be in violation, check in with your employment counsel to come up with ways to bring you back in line.

In case of investigation

If the Department of Labor does come calling, there’s no reason to panic. Remember the following:

  • As an employer, you have the right to be represented by attorneys during the investigation—to be safe, contact your representation as soon as you’re made aware of an impending investigation or audit.
  • Request that the Department of Labor set your meeting or investigation at a time that’s mutually convenient—contact your employment attorney for advice and help in getting prepared.
  • Your attorney and employment counsel may not concur on a particular matter—if so, it is recommended to follow the employment counsel’s thinking.
  • Reassure your employees that you are committed to wage and hour law compliance, and that any worker filing a complaint or assisting with an investigation should have no fear of retaliation.
  • When the investigator shares their findings, you as an employer (possibly through your attorney) has the right to present additional facts for consideration if violations were disclosed.
  • After the proceedings are complete, communicate policy changes to employees if applicable.
  • Review the issue and other wage practices to ensure future compliance.

Any questions? Feel free to contact us and we’ll be happy to answer your wage and hour worries.