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Spot Inspections: 10 Things to Do When the DOL Visits

by John Stebbins on Jan 14, 2020 11:56:10 AM

The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) is responsible for administering and enforcing a number of federal laws that set labor standards, such as the FLSA and FMLA. And audits are on the rise in workplaces of all types to ensure compliance. Worse yet, a visit from the WHD can happen unexpectedly. That’s because the Division doesn’t require notifying employers when scheduling an investigation.

So if a WHD investigator shows up at your door, what should you expect? An investigator is typically sent to determine if several laws apply to an employer and, if so, verify workers are employed and paid properly. Most visits are initiated by complaints, but others are industry-specific, targeting those with a high number of violations like agriculture or hospitality. No matter the reason, a visit will proceed the same way, with the investigator taking the following steps.

  • Reviewing records to determine which laws apply, such as annual dollar volume of business transactions
  • Examining payroll and time records
  • Interviewing employees to verify such things as worker duties, legal employment of minors, and payroll and time records

To make an investigation go as smoothly as possible at your organization with the least potential for disruption and penalties, here are some tips to keep in mind.

  1. Don’t refuse access to the investigator
  2. While an investigator doesn’t have to disclose why they’re there, you can ask about the focus of the audit
  3. Be respectful and cooperative throughout the process, offering assistance such as a proper space and access to a restroom
  4. Remember that you can have an accountant or attorney present at any stage
  5. Don’t take out your frustration on employees by trying to figure out who called the WHD
  6. Provide the requested documents as quickly as possible and, if they’re not readily available, let the investigator know when they will be
  7. Allow the investigator to meet with employees; however, you can advise them about potential shift and scheduling issues
  8. Thoroughly read the investigation report
  9. Be prepared to present additional facts for consideration if violations are disclosed
  10. Ask for the opportunity to correct violations before any fines are assessed

While no business can anticipate an unannounced visit from WHD, it’s wise to prepare in advance by reviewing your timekeeping policies, organizing and maintaining payroll records, and ensuring proper employee classifications. Or better yet, conduct an internal audit using our checklist. For assistance with DOL compliance, contact Complete Payroll Solutions at 401-332-9325.


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