Among the broad range of issues employers tackle, managing labor often requires significant resources. Why am I responsible for my workers' safety? How much am I required to pay employees? Must I allow time off for illness? Do I need to provide health insurance? Can I use independent contractors? These are just a few questions that employers may ask when evaluating their labor force. Unfortunately, employers sometimes get incorrect answers to these questions when they seek advice from the wrong sources.
The department takes a proactive approach in helping employers comply with federal labor laws. One important way is by gathering multiple agencies in a single location to provide employers with free compliance assistance and training in key areas that affect companies of all sizes.
We see representatives from a wide range of industries at these forums – from construction, to hospitality, to manufacturing, to healthcare. These trainings provide a critical piece of our overall outreach efforts, and support our belief that most employers want to do the right thing – they just need to know what that is. At the Wage and Hour Division, we take the education of the employer community seriously. Last year alone, we conducted more than 1,400 outreach seminars, conferences, speeches, symposiums, panel discussions and presentations.
At a recent forum in Oklahoma City, a human resources consulting company representative attended to learn more about the Fair Labor Standards Act. When he had questions about an employer’s ability to claim a tip credit under the FLSA, he was able to sit down with an investigator who walked him through the computation process and explained the details of the provision. The consultant left equipped to make the changes necessary to ensure compliance among his organization’s hundreds of employer clients.
These consultations are quick, confidential and effective. Employers seeking information at one of these forums, or directly from the agency at any other time, need not provide any identifying information, and asking for help in no way triggers any enforcement activity. This confidentiality is critical to making sure we can get information into the hands of those who need it.
In the Southwest, the department has hosted three employer forums recently – Houston in November 2016, San Antonio in January 2017 and Oklahoma City in March 2017. Employers who attend leave with the answers they need, and a greater understanding of the laws that apply to their business. They also have a chance to connect directly with agency representatives an employer can turn to in the future for answers to their questions, making it easier than ever for employers to get the information they need to comply with the law.