This year, the Department of Labor (DOL) has been allocated an additional $2 million in funding, which is rumored to increase the number of on-site workplace visits for the remainder of 2016.
The DOL conduct site visits in order to investigate federal law compliance and the usage of labor law posters in the workplace.
How does the DOL decide where to visit?
Although the DOL does not disclose their process for determining the location and timing for on-site visits, history indicates that DOL visits can typically be traced to one of two motivating factors:
- Firstly, a current or former employee has made a confidential complaint to the DOL against you.
- The DOL is initiating a broader investigation into a particular industry or geographical location.
How Will I Know if the DOL is Coming to my Workplace?
While some DOL visits are planned in advance, others are completely spontaneous. In the event of a planned visit, your company will have more time to prepare and will likely receive details prior to the actual date, which can help to minimize business interruptions on the day of the visit. These details may include the date and time for the visit, documents for review, and whether or not the DOL plans to conduct employee interviews during the visit.
Surprise visits, on the other hand, tend to be more anxiety producing and can interrupt and unsettle business operations on the day. These inspections typically involve employee interviews and document reviews.
Fortunately, unplanned visits can often be delayed for up to a week if they are too disruptive, giving you time to gather the necessary documents, and designate assigned times for employee interviews.
Ultimately, the best way to minimize your anxiety and maximize your preparation for DOL visits is to plan ahead and ensure your workplace is operating in compliance with federal standards.
Ensuring Compliance with Workplace Regulations
The best way to prepare for a DOL visit is to ensure you have proactively established a plan for the event of a surprise visit. A recent Fisher and Philips article highlight a number of key elements to include in your preparation and planning:
- Alert key personnel of any impending visits, and when an investigator arrives on-site.
- Ensure all required postings are up-to-date and visible to employees. The investigator will most likely take a tour of the facilities to review these posters.
- Create a schedule for employee interviews for minimal disruption to regular business operations.
- Prepare a clean, document free space for the investigator to review documents and interview employees.
- Designate one employee to work with the investigator to ensure the visit runs smoothly.
- Have requested documents ready for review, ensuring you keep a copy of all documents.
During a visit, the DOL investigates a range of federal laws affecting the workplace, which are outlined on their website. Familiarizing yourself with these laws and applying the steps above to all applicable laws and regulations will ensure you are prepared for any DOL visit, announced or unannounced.
One key area for scrutiny during a DOL review is FMLA compliance. Employers often note that it is difficult and sometimes anxiety-producing to ensure compliance with FMLA laws, as leaves are continually changing, and new leave laws are introduced. Although you may not be able to fully predict DOL visits, these important tips, shown in the image on the right, can ensure you’re up-to-date with eligibility and FMLA compliance.
While no employer can fully prevent or predict DOL visits, you can ensure your workplace is as prepared as possible by keeping practices up-to-date and in alignment with present eligibility and FMLA requirements.