To determine if the Department of Labor (Department) is following its wage investigation procedures, including conducting outreach to claimants about case status and recovered wages. Our audit covered the period April 1, 2016 through November 29, 2019. We also considered information that was provided by the Department through August 18, 2020.
About the Program
The Department’s mission is to protect workers, assist the unemployed, and connect job seekers to jobs. In fulfilling these responsibilities, the Department’s Division of Labor Standards (Division) seeks to vigorously enforce New York Labor Laws (Laws) and promote education about these protections. These Laws, such as those that cover minimum wage and overtime, illegal deductions, day-of-rest and meal period requirements, and child labor, help improve working conditions for adults, minors, and individuals with disabilities. Division investigators from 12 District Offices examine complaints and any other alleged labor violations that arise during the course of an investigation. The Division can require employers found to be in violation of the Laws to pay restitution of wages and can also assess penalties (which are retained by the Department), liquidated damages, which are additional amounts assessed in an effort to compensate workers for the delay in receiving wages owed and which may serve as a deterrent to future violations, and interest. Investigators’ efforts are critical in promoting compliance and in recovering amounts for aggrieved workers. The Department reported collecting $31 million and $29 million in wages, interest, and penalties as a result of its wage investigations during calendar years 2019 and 2018, respectively.
- We reviewed documented wage investigation activities for a sample of 150 of the 5,387 cases opened by the Division’s Albany, Buffalo, and Syracuse District Offices between April 1, 2016 and November 29, 2019 (50 from each office). For 69 of the 150 cases (46 percent), investigators did not make first contact with the employer within 60 days of creating a wage investigation case in the Department’s tracking system (docketing), as recommended in its procedures. In 55 of the 69 cases, the first contact did not occur for more than 120 days, including 13 cases for which first contact didn’t occur until after more than 360 days had passed.
- We identified 24 cases with no documented investigation activities for significant periods of time, including 2 cases with gaps of more than two years.
- For 9 of 56 cases we reviewed that the Department’s system indicated were closed and paid, we could not determine whether the 976 claimants represented by these cases received recovered wages totaling $413,582.
- Pursue appropriate actions to ensure investigators make initial contact with employers within 60 days of case docketing and fully document their actions.
- Make efforts to identify the reasons for, and reduce, gaps in the investigation process.
- Identify and implement methods to better document and verify payments to claimants.