The New York Times reported this morning on a forthcoming report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that reveals serious problems in enforcement at the Wage and Hour Division of the federal Department of Labor, which enforces the minimum wage, overtime laws, and child labor laws. Apparently, undercover agents posed both as workers with serious claims of labor violations and as employers with little inclination to solve those problems, and nine out of ten cases were mishandled.
Generally, calls from workers went un-returned, the division failed to investigate serious allegations, and workers were often told to file lawsuits rather than rely on the division to enforce their rights. Here are some of the lowlights (you can read the full report here):
- Five of the cases were never even entered into the division's database.
- In two of the cases, the division recorded that the employer had paid back wages -- even though it had not.
- The division closed one case after the employer offered to pay $1,000 before the statute of limitations ran; the employer owed more than $200,000 in unpaid overtime.
The Times reported that the Wage and Hour division will hire 250 more investigators -- increasing its staff by one third -- to improve its enforcement.