US government enforcement is on the rise with a high cost to employers


According to a new infographic, US government agencies over the last several years have significantly stepped up enforcement against employers from all angles and made clear the high cost of failing to comply with the law.

It’s the perfect storm. Imagine this: the EEOC is investigating you for alleged discriminatory employment practices. Could it get worse? Yes. The Department of Labor (DOL) is also investigating you for misclassifying your workers who are now entitled to years of overtime payments that you failed to pay. Are you done? No. The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) just requested the Form I-9s for your employees and discovered that you hired several unauthorized workers. Will this cost you? Yes!

In 2012 alone, 99,412 charges were filed with the EEOC and more than $365 million was recovered against private employers. Both Dillard’s and Burger King recently felt the impact of the EEOC’s efforts in a pair of cases brought by the agency as Dillard’s agreed to pay a $2-million settlement to resolve a class action disability discrimination lawsuit, and the world’s largest Burger King franchisee agreed to pay $2.5 million to a class of 89 female employees to settle a lawsuit claiming the women were subjected to sexually harassment and retaliation when they worked at Burger King.

However, discrimination complaints are not the only concern for employers. In 2011, the DOL increased its wage and hour investigators by 40% and collected $224 million in back wages. Within the last year, Rite Aid agreed to pay $20.9 million to settle an FLSA class action lawsuit for failure to pay overtime.

Not scared yet. Keep reading.

In the last five years there has been a 600% increase in Form I-9 audits by ICE. Last year, ICE sought $12.48 million in administrative fines for illegal employment practices.

Meanwhile, worksite investigations resulted in the arrests of 240 managers, supervisors and HR employees harboring or knowingly hiring illegal aliens. Doesn’t apply to you? Au contraire. All industries, regardless of size or location, are “fair game” for worksite investigations by the government to ensure that employers are hiring authorized workers.

Employers cannot run or hide from these amped up enforcement efforts, nor should they fall into a false sense of security just because they have not yet reached the government’s radar. But don’t panic. You can minimize exposure to such enforcement efforts by doing the following:

•    Implement policies banning discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age, disability or genetic information.
•    Provide training on preventing discrimination and harassment to employees and supervisors.
•    Properly classify employees under the FLSA.
•    Establish a salary basis policy that prohibits improper pay deductions.
•    Verify the identity of all new employees and establish that new hires are authorized to work in the US.

Share Your Perspective

What has your company done to reduce exposure to the government’s enforcement efforts? We would love to hear your thoughts. Please get in touch via the comments box below.

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