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GAO study shows appalling laxness in US Labor Department investigations of wage and hour complaints

The Government Accountability Office released a report on 25 March dealing with its investigation of the Wage and Hour Division of the Labor Department. The following is part of the summary of the report:

GAO found that WHD frequently responded inadequately to complaints, leaving low wage workers vulnerable to wage theft. Posing as fictitious complainants, GAO filed 10 common complaints with WHD district offices across the country. The undercover tests revealed sluggish response times, a poor complaint intake process, and failed conciliation attempts, among other problems. In one case, a WHD investigator lied about investigative work performed and did not investigate GAO’s fictitious complaint. At the end of the undercover tests, GAO was still waiting for WHD to begin investigating three cases—a delay of nearly 5, 4, and 2 months, respectively. ...

GAO identified 20 cases affecting at least 1,160 real employees whose employers were inadequately investigated. For example, GAO found cases where it took over a year for WHD to respond to a complaint, cases closed based on unverified information provided by the employer, and cases dropped when the employer did not return phone calls.

GAO’s overall assessment of the WHD complaint intake, conciliation, and investigation processes found an ineffective system that discourages wage theft complaints. With respect to conciliations, GAO found that WHD does not fully investigate these types of complaints or compel employers to pay. In addition, a WHD policy instructed many offices not to record unsuccessful conciliations in its database, making WHD appear better at resolving conciliations than it actually is. WHD’s investigations were frequently delayed by months or years, but once complaints were recorded in WHD’s database and assigned as a case to an investigator, they were often adequately investigated. --
Wage and Hour Division’s Complaint Intake and Investigative Processes Leave Low Wage Workers Vulnerable to Wage Theft

This entry was posted by Edward at 8:16 PM, 26 March 2009 | Categories: Wage & Hour


The picture above was made in 1914 by the Birmingham Engraving Co. This reproduction is from the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA.

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