US/NYS Department of Labor Investigations & Proceedings
New York Employment Attorneys
In addition to the threat of costly wage and hour litigation, New York employers are more frequently subjected to invasive and potentially damaging investigations by both the U.S. Department of Labor and/or the NYS Department of Labor. Labor Department investigations can disrupt a business, create tension between the employer and employees, and can lead to devastating assessments for unpaid wages, penalties and interest. Seeking experienced legal guidance and representation is crucial to protect business interests, when facing a Department of Labor Investigation.
Wage & Hour Enforcement On the Rise
In recent years, both the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) and the NYS Department of Labor (NYSDOL) enforcement efforts have risen as a result of increased funding coupled with strong executive mandates to stamp out wage and hour violations and combat perceived conceptual evils such as widespread ”wage theft.” In addition to seeking to remedy wage violations by redistributing funds from employers to employees, both the USDOL and the NYSDOL also levy hefty fines against employers known as Civil Money Penalties. These penalties, separate and in addition to other penalties collected and distributed to employees, help offset the operating costs of the labor departments and fill state and federal coffers.
U. S. Department of Labor Actively Investigates Wage & Hour Violations
Following last year’s election, the USDOL has become significantly more active in investigating wage and hour violations in New York and nationwide as the new administration places added importance upon Fair Labor Standards Act enforcement. Although USDOL investigators can only go back three years in investigating employer payroll practices, the FLSA allows for recovery of “double damages,” which can vastly increase any unpaid wage assessment, as well as civil money penalties and interest. When combined, all of these amounts can quickly lead to a total assessment figure that can truly be a threat to a business’ bottom line and profitability.
While the USDOL does not have internal enforcement procedures, the Office of the Solicitor often pursues federal court litigation against employers on behalf of the Department in cases where a negotiated resolution cannot be achieved. Whether facing a USDOL wage and hour investigation or a lawsuit initiated by the Solicitor of Labor, it is important for an employer to retain skilled, experienced attorneys who are familiar with both the intricacies of the FLSA and the internal workings of the Department.
NYS Department of Labor
Like the USDOL, the NYSDOL investigates employers for compliance with the wage and hour provisions of the New York Labor Law and its supporting regulations. In recent years, the Labor Standards Division of the NYSDOL has vastly increased its enforcement efforts, including the development of several “task forces” to target specific industries that the Department considers to be especially prone to wage and hour violations. However, unlike the USDOL, the New York Labor Law allows the NYSDOL to go back a full six years (as opposed to a maximum of three years under the FLSA) when auditing employers’ payroll and computing potential unpaid wage assessments. This allows the NYSDOL to reach further back into the past and vastly increase the amount of any assessment for wage and hour violations that they may find. Also, in addition to the six year coverage period, the NYSDOL can also seek hefty penalties in the form of “liquidated damages” (25% of unpaid wages) and interest to be paid to affected employees, and civil money penalties to be paid to the Department itself. These amounts often lead to bewildered and hopeless looks from employers when they see an assessment issued by a NYSDOL investigator.
The NYSDOL also differs from the USDOL in that an employer who disagrees with an issued violation must challenge the assessment internally by filing an appeal with the NYS Industrial Board of Appeals (IBA), an independent arm of the NYSDOL that conducts administrative hearings and reviews the Department’s orders. The IBA has its own internal rules and procedures, first and foremost of which is a strict and brief filing deadline, which employers who wish to challenge NYSDOL assessments must be familiar with to properly protect their rights and maximize their chances of success.
At Stephen D. Hans & Associates, P.C., we have substantial experience representing clients during all stages of both USDOL and the NYSDOL investigations, as well as in federal court litigation and in agency proceedings before the IBA. Whenever possible, we use our skills and knowledge to work with government authorities to eliminate and/or reduce agency assessments issued for unpaid wages and penalties. When settlements cannot be reached, our experience defending employers in both federal court litigation and administrative hearings can help protect your business’ rights and achieve the best outcome possible.
Contact Our New York Labor and Employment Lawyers
If you are a small or mid-sized business owner facing a wage and hour investigation or government agency hearing, we encourage you to get in touch with us as soon as possible. Call (718) 275-6700 to arrange a consultation.
Employment and labor law attorneys serving businesses in Queens, on Long Island and in towns and communities across the New York City metro area