Navigating wage and hour labor laws can be complicated.
The North Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce offered a primer on the topic at its monthly economic briefing luncheon at Fox Hollow Golf & Country Club.
The guest speaker was Lourdes Bahr, community outreach specialist for the wage and hour division of the United States Department of Labor. Based in Tampa, she travels throughout Central Florida providing federal labor law training.
Bahr is an Emory University graduate and former investigator for the labor department’s wage and hour division. She also serves as trainer for new investigators.
Good record keeping is the first piece of advice she offered.
“Make sure you have good records,” she said. “They are your protection. They are your friend. Make sure you are proactive in checking records.”
When the labor department investigates for violations, Bahr said it generally is the result of a complaint from a past or present employee, or maybe a third party.
Some investigations also arise based on multiple complaints against a particular industry, she said.
Investigations require interviews with employees and review of records, including time cards and payroll sheets.
“It’s always a nuisance when you’re investigated,” Bahr said. “Our staff knows this. We try to be as efficient and helpful as possible.”
Bahr said the Tampa office has four technicians available to answer questions about labor laws, if business owners have concerns. “There’s nothing wrong with calling,” she said.
Currently the labor department is offering a self-auditing program, known as PAID (Payroll Audit Independent Determination).
It began about three months ago, and will continue for another three months, Bahr said.
The program offers employees and employers a way to resolve inadvertent violations of overtime and minimum wage. It avoids costs and fees of litigation.
However, employers can’t participate if they are in litigation or under current investigation by the labor department.
The process requires completion of an application and registering with the labor department.
The error can be corrected, and the business owner will have a “clean plate,” Bahr said.
So far, not many businesses have applied, but she said, “We want to make sure people have the option to do this. We’re hoping to get some traction with it.”
For information on PAID, visit DOL.gov/whd/paid.
For information on labor laws, visit DOL.gov/whd, or call (866) 487-9243.
Published June 20, 2018