The state Department of Labor (DOL) doesn’t complete many of its wage theft investigations in a timely manner, allowing thousands of cases to remain unresolved for a year or more, according to an audit released today by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.
“It is imperative that DOL do a better job resolving wage theft cases as workers across New York are often waiting too long for the compensation they rightly deserve,” DiNapoli said. “While wage theft investigations are generally complex and time-intensive, any lags pose a risk that complications, such as lost records, could arise and interfere with an investigation and possible settlement.”
Wage theft is the illegal holding of wages or denial of benefits to a worker by an employer. Examples include failing to pay overtime, not giving workers their last paycheck after they leave a job or not paying for all the hours the employee worked.
DiNapoli’s auditors found that, as of August 26, 2013, DOL had more than 17,000 open cases, an increase of about 150 percent from the 7,000 cases on hand at the start of 2008. The current caseload consists of about 9,300 active investigations and more than 7,800 cases pending payment. Of these, almost 13,000, or 75 percent, were at least one year old from initial claim date.
The increasing backlog stems largely from system and process deficiencies that hinder timely investigations, coupled with a limited number of staff to perform the growing amount of work. As of August 2013, auditors estimate that DOL’s 98 investigators were responsible for an average of 95 active investigations each. According to the audit, resolving the inefficiencies in DOL’s procedures and its use of resources could significantly improve productivity.
DiNapoli’s auditors also found:
- DOL’s Workforce Protection Management System does not provide management with accurate or useful case management reports;
- Employers may be allowed a payment plan for restitution, but DOL has not established criteria to guide eligibility or payment terms; and
- DOL does not maintain a centralized record of all payment plans in effect, and neither the Division of Labor Standards nor its districts have adequate controls in place to track and monitor employer compliance.
During the audit period the division instituted procedural changes to streamline its work and reduce the backlog.
DiNapoli recommended DOL:
- Continue efforts to close the oldest wage investigation cases and strive to investigate and resolve newer cases faster;
- Monitor the newly implemented strategies discussed in this report and continue to pursue additional initiatives to reduce the wage investigation case backlog and complete new wage investigation cases sooner;
- Correct system flaws and develop capability to create meaningful reports to better manage the current cases and backlog;
- Establish specific payment plan procedures;
- Develop criteria for investigators to use to determine if a payment plan should be granted;
- Ensure that each district office follows the payment plan procedures and keeps similar records; and
- Develop a centralized payment collection system to effectively separate incompatible duties and to manage all payment plan information and transactions.
DOL officials responded to the audit’s recommendations and indicated the actions they are taking to address them. For a copy of the report, including DOL’s response, visit: http://www.osc.state.ny.us/audits/allaudits/093014/13s38.pdf